Erie High Charter School
The rural southeast Kansas community of Erie has had a school system in Neosho County since the late 1800’s. In 1964 the District became the first consolidated, unified school district in the state. The new Erie High Charter School is the result of a successful 2007 bond initiative to replace the existing 1954 high school facility that currently serves the communities of Erie, Galesburg, and Stark. The school is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certified high school and the first LEED Gold K-12 educational building in the state of Kansas.
The educational delivery method of USD 101 was the driving force behind the design of the new high school. Successful experimentation with Project Based Learning (PBL) has been the catalyst for immense positive change and has propelled the current Erie High School and its students into the spotlight.
The single level Erie High Charter School is arranged for daylighting and solar access in the core learning spaces and reflects the collaborative nature of PBL with a focus on transparency and circulation. Transparent schools convey the idea that learning should be visible and celebrated, creating a sense of openness; therefore, the auditorium and media center are open to the rest of the school. Students are encouraged to venture into spaces so they can benefit from the resources present and instruction that is taking place. There is one project based house designed for up to 120 students. (An additional project based house was subdivided into traditional classrooms to provide flexibility and choice.) In the PBL house, students have discussions, work in groups, or sit at individual workstations working on their projects. Each teacher has a workstation and an average of 15 students to advise in her/his area. “Classrooms” for PBL students are actually seminar rooms where students can gather in small groups for discussions, collaboration, or short, targeted instruction.
Also included are traditional high school spaces such as administrative offices, conference rooms, auxiliary and competition gymnasiums, locker rooms, a music room, and a family and consumer services classroom as well as various support spaces. The building occupies a footprint of 87,750 square feet with an interior square footage of 85,380.
The school incorporates numerous integrated green building strategies including extensive use of daylight, energy efficient equipment, water saving fixtures, green cleaning policy, and sustainable materials. It earned LEED Gold (48 points) under the LEED for Schools 2007 (v2.0) Rating System in March 2011. The Central Plains Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council developed a project profile highlighting the school’s achievements in 2011.
From 2008 – 2011, Earthly Ideas served as the sustainability and LEED consultant and provided extensive materials and methods research, drawing and specification review and editing, and assistance to the design and construction team including coordination of LEED certification process. Realizing the opportunity for a utilizing the project as a hands-on, real-world learning experience, teachers formed a project based learning class that became the Green Dream Team. Dedicated students joined the class and worked closely with Earthly Ideas to implement and document various high performance building initiatives related to LEED prerequisites and credits. They established a tobacco-free policy for the district, got involved with on-site implementation of recycling, and created a set of signs that educate students, staff, and visitors about the green features in the school. The Green Dream team used the signs to develop a self-guided walking tour of the school. Along with a case study, the signs and walking tour became part of a Green Building Education innovation credit for the LEED certification. Earthly Ideas’ Managing Principal Michelle Reott will always look to the dedication of this team as a model for other projects and fondly remember their enthusiastic contributions.