The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Rod Morrison
Gilson Jr High Principal 

New Middle School Ed Specs Update

Principal weighs in on up coming challenges


On December 6 and 7, the community of Valdez participated in a process to help develop Educational Specifications assisting in the design process a new school middle school for Valdez.

The process included gathering information and planning for the educational complex, including looking at not only educational needs of the community, but also looking at truly developing a community school. DeJong-Richter and Bettisworth North gathered information from administration, staff, parents and other user groups, to design the educational specifications for the City of Valdez.

This educational specifications document will act as a guideline for facility planning in the following ways:

1. Define the educational philosophy and goals for the facility.

2. Define the educational programs and curriculum to be housed by the facility.

3. Define specific activities to be conducted in the facility.

4. Define community use of the facility.

5. Define the general and specific desired architectural characteristics of the facility.

6. Define the facility’s space and equipment requirements to facilitate delivery of the proposed curriculum.

7. Define basic site and utility requirements of the facility.


The middle school facility must provide a unique and transitional learning environment. The facility should be designed and spatially organized to serve the education program. At the same time, the design and construction methodology must include a high degree of flexibility to accommodate program changes in the future. The middle school building must be organized in a manner, which ensures a sense of belonging and a personalized educational experience for each student.

Some of the challenges ahead, that DeJong-Richter and Bettisworth North will have to overcome, are the small footprint of the Valdez High School and Gilson Junior High site. The lack of available space causes some site issues that need to be addressed, such as providing safe community access to the city swimming pool, providing a “safe school,” that includes a separate bus drop off and parent pickup for students, keeping the school and students out of the avalanche area, creating a “green school” that is cost effective to operate for years to come for the community of Valdez. A school site has not been determined yet, and we hope the process of answering all the questions will lead us to the best possible location for the new middle school.


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