PKY vision is outlined


Sixth-grader Blair Nembhard, 12, right, makes his way through the busy halls at P.K. Yonge School in Gainesville, Fla., Monday, January 26, 2009. The school has hired an international expert in school architecture to help plan and design a "revitalized campus" for the University of Florida laboratory school.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 11:42 p.m.

P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School will not get a mere face-lift, but a full-blown reconstruction of most parts of campus.

In the school auditorium Monday night, speaking to parents, students and staff, the president of the architectural firm hired to redesign the campus said the goal was a "21st century school," which broke from the model of students sitting in rows of desks.

Prakash Nair, president of Fielding Nair International, described the current classroom buildings at P.K. Yonge - and those at most schools - as remnants of the industrial age, when students were "parts on an assembly line."

"The buildings don't reflect your educational philosophy," he said. "They certainly don't reflect where you want to be five years from now."

Nair gave a few examples of design features the firm- - which has offices in Lutz and Minnesota - has used at schools across the United States and international locales such as Tasmania.

Classrooms were replaced by learning studios - with students on comfortable chairs facing each other instead of all staring ahead at the teacher. Computer labs were gone, replaced by laptops and wireless Internet connections in every room.

More windows offered natural light, and all buildings would have an environmentally friendly Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). There would be fewer walls to separate students and more common areas.

Outdoors on campus, Nair spoke of fish hatcheries, gardens, walking paths and cafes with terrace seating.

"It's exciting," said Kelly Jackson, who has two children attending P.K. Yonge. "I think it's still kind of vague at this point. But I appreciate the fact they asked for our input."

Nair said Monday was his first visit to the campus and he wanted parent involvement from the beginning of the design work.

"It's going to be very open," he said. "It's not going to happen behind the scenes."

P.K. Yonge - a public school district with a single K-12 school under the University of Florida College of Education - will pay Nair's firm approximately $400,000 for the design work and consulting after construction is finished.

P.K. Yonge Director Fran Vandiver said the prospect of a campus reconstruction and redesign has loomed since a Florida Department of Education visit a few years back.

Since several buildings on campus are 50 years old, the state decided "it would take more money to renovate than to put them down and start over," Vandiver said.

She said a conservative estimate was $60 million for the full construction project, which will replace most classroom buildings and the gym.

Vandiver said construction could start in the 2009-10 school year with new elementary level buildings. The school has $5 million in state money set aside for that first phase, she said.

Fielding Nair International representatives will be back in early March for another meeting with the public.

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