New MOC-Floyd Valley Elementary School
“Back in May, the new school off Jay Ave. in Orange City was still a construction site — unfinished, unfurnished. But when the kindergarten- through fifth-grade students pack their backpacks for the first day of school on Aug. 23, they will finally get to experience the finished product — a building years in the making, specifically designed and engineered by the school district to provide the most collaborative learning experience possible.
It’s a debut both teachers and staff are anticipating. They are ready to unveil the communitywide labor of love to the 700 students that will walk its halls this fall.
Superintendent Russ Adams said the school, which sits on a 38-acre site southeast of Orange City, had an intentional design from the initial meetings with CMBA Architects of Sioux City.
“We wanted it to be an inviting space. A bright space, a space where kids wanted to be,” Adams said. “Secondly, we wanted a space that was collaborative.”
The school board toured six schools in the Minneapolis area that highlighted similar things in their designs. They ultimately landed on a pod system. Each grade’s hallway includes lockers, classrooms and a collaborative learning space which can be converted to an additional classroom in the future. Smaller spaces with whiteboards and tables allow special education teachers to meet one-on-one with students in their own space.
Each grade’s hallway dons different colors — from navy and purple to green and blue — to help students distinguish grades and feel comfortable navigating the space. Adams said this design will help students feel more connected than ever, making a large, new building feel small and familiar.
“All of those classrooms are kind of in a neighborhood,” said Adams. “You’re all together so the teachers can collaborate, help each other, and the students can work together.”
Another intentional feature is natural lighting since the school’s design ensures even interior classrooms receive it. The slanted windows visible from the exterior were inspired by drawing by the kids and cutting pieces of paper into different shapes. On the first floor, protective coating adds extra security to the outdoor-facing glass.
Added spaces in the school include two music rooms with enhanced acoustics, a science lab for the upper elementary, a special education wing with six classrooms and a sensory room. Two gymnasiums, both regulation-size, will serve both the elementary and middle schools. One of the gyms has a 700-person capacity, making it a great space for concerts and athletic events.
The park behind the school is also expansive. Two play sets, one geared for younger children and the other for older, include a high, enclosed slide, swing sets and two gaga ball pits, a favorite recess game. The turf and track bearing the purple Dutch mascot lines the property, along with two ball fields that belong to the city of Orange City.
Streamlining does not stop there, either.
Adams said one of the most important improvements was a safer and more efficient pickup and drop-off system. Two different entrances will divide up the flow of traffic — one entrance for buses and teachers, the other for cars and parents.
Construction for the building began in November 2021, starting the $37 million project that reflected years of growth. In the past decade, the district has seen an average growth of 17 students per year. Their enrollment for the 2022-23 school year was 1,538 from transitional kindergarten to high school with about 700 of those students in the new elementary school.
The new building is not only an echo of the growth the district has already seen. The board hopes the elementary school will encourage and expedite additional growth in the community. The school’s location is surrounded by the up-and-coming — it is close to the new Puddle Jumper Park and the expanding cluster of homes behind the Orange City Area Health System.
The school and its location looks ahead. The old elementary buildings in Hospers and Orange City were well kept but showed signs of wear and tear. Parts of Orange City Elementary even surpassed 100 years. They were at full capacity with old computer rooms and storage spaces turned into makeshift classrooms. They were also landlocked, making growth options for both schools extremely slim.
The bond for the new school was passed on March 3, 2020, less than two weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown. The cities of Hospers and Orange City purchased the respective school buildings. While Hospers elementary will remain standing, the Orange City building will be torn down.” (Story from Georgia Lodewyk, via nwiowa.com)