Elementary school's new design drawing rave reviews


Six months ago, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS took a look at the brand-new design of an elementary school in the north metro.

That one-of-a-kind building - Centerview Elementary School in the Spring Lake Park School District - has now been fully operational since the start of the school year.

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The classrooms at Centerview all have see-through nanowalls.

'Our school before didn't have (many) windows, so we couldn't see outside,' third-grader Kenna said. 'So I like the idea of the windows.'

The walls at Centerview move, and individual classrooms can become large open learning spaces.

'This is definitely a unique space,' teacher Ashlee Sluzewicz said. 'It is very flexible and adaptable to what our students are doing day-to-day.'

Nearly every piece of furniture has wheels and can be moved around based on learning style.

'You don't actually have to stay in one place when you want to work,' said Musab, a third-grader. 'You can go into different spaces.'

The school opened with nearly 600 students in kindergarten through fourth grade - about 100 more than expected.

'We are able to get at how they learn best and give them opportunities for choice,' the school's principal Mike Callahan said.

One might think the open concept would be distracting for students, but Callahan said it's not.

'As you walk through and see kids learning, they may look up,' he said. 'But they are used to people walking through the building. They are used to people asking them, 'Tell me more about what you are learning?''

The building design is meant to meet goals of the school - transparency and learning on display.

But safety is still a top priority.

The nanowall glass is stronger than that of drywall,' Callahan said.

'When it's locked and shut, there is no possible way to get through,' Sluzewicz added.

When the building isn't being utilized by students in the summer months, it's open concept design means it can still be used by area businesses and major events.

Those partnerships will include the Schwan's USA Cup soccer tournament, and possibly the PGA Tour.

'When we talk about the here and now, we're ready,' Callahan said. 'And as we grow, this building will respond to those emerging influences.'