The first thing visitors notice when walking through the doors at the new Berg Middle School is its scale. The open feel created by the industrial, concert hall-height ceilings in the student commons is impressive.
The grand staircase leading to the second-floor classrooms is exposed, allowing students to look out over the space and its polished concrete floors and carries a modern industrial look — a theme throughout the building.
“The polished concrete, I think, gives a real classic look to it. You can see how bright and cheery it is here. You see how much light,” said Bob Callaghan, superintendent of the Newton Community School District.
He was referring to another noticeable feature of Newton’s new fifth- to eighth-grade complex — natural light. Floor to ceiling windows in each of the building’s main entry points show off Berg’s flourishes like decorative brick and smooth wood accents which can be seen in the commons, entryways and Learning Media Center (library).
“We tried to do some things to give it a little class and, yet, not put this everywhere, which would have cost an additional $1 to $2 million,” Callaghan said of the decorative brick, stone and woods.
On Dec. 6, workers were putting the finishing touches on the interior, applying the final polish to the concrete floors, sanding the wooden trophy cases and testing the new fiber-optic communications network to get Berg ready for its public debut.
The Bonding, Preserve the Pride and Construction Committees — the groups responsible for informing the public on the need for the new school and the $26.9 million bond which funded most of the project — got a first look during private tours on Monday and Wednesday.
Sunday, the new Berg will finally be open to masses. District officials have invited the public to tour the building during a 2:30 p.m. open house, following a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m.
Callaghan and NCSD leaders hope the higher-grade polished concrete floors — a late design change — will make a statement, along with the rest of the new school when the community walks into the commons.
“When we walked in the first thing you said was ‘wow.’ (The concrete floor) pops from the minute you walk in the door,” Callaghan said. “It didn’t do that before. We went from a shine that was a 2 to a shine that’s a 3.”
The open floor plan will be inviting, Callaghan said, for the 1,000 students who will be learning and playing in the space after the district’s winter break in January, book-ending a more than two-year process bringing the new BMS to life.
Whether its the 60, 950-square foot classrooms or the interactive technology every learning space utilizes, the new BMS is built with the future in mind.
The school is prepared for growth up to 1,250 students, Callaghan said. Each grade level will have its own designated “pod,” color-coded in purple, green, orange and teal. The bright color schemes in the pods run from carpet to ceiling. As students walk into the classrooms, the walls are painted with a muted version of the purple, green, orange or teal.
Lockers for each student are located in their pods and are chest height, so staff and students can see out over the area for better visibility and safety.
Another unique feature strategically placed in the student pods are gender neutral, single-stall restrooms.
Every grade-level pod also has a dedicated teacher learning and training room with the same interactive technology they have in their classrooms. This can be used for instructors to collaborate in professional development, problem-solving and lesson planning. Classrooms will also have restrooms nearby, so students do not have to travel far.
Energy and tech
Energy efficiency is a key component to the new Berg. The natural light coming through windows in the classrooms is also used in the hallways, with skylights also adorning the ceilings of the stairwell. Where artificial light is needed, Berg is now equipped with 100 percent LED. Geothermal heating and cooling will also help energy efficiency.
Networking is an integral feature throughout Berg, but especially in the classrooms. Each room has its own Epson interactive projector. Teachers can manipulate what’s on the wall using a touchscreen monitor. Solstice wireless software and hardware allow up to 10 students at a time to mirror their Chromebook screens on the projector to share what they’re working on with students. This can also be done with a student or teacher’s smartphone.
A simple central control panel connects it all. Callaghan said they wanted the system to be user-friendly so a substitute teacher could intuitively use it without taking up student learning time for crash course tech tutorials.
The entire building is Wi-Fi enabled, with wireless internet access from any place in the school.
All classrooms have adjustable standing to sitting desks, and the chairs — which students selected — can be sat in from multiple positions.
The art rooms continue the industrial ceiling and polished concrete look, with large second floor windows overlooking the commons. They are equipped with a fire kiln, among other features. The family and consumer science room has several full kitchens, as well as a demonstration table and mirror, as seen in a professional demo kitchen.
The special education classrooms are equipped with their own kitchens to teach life skills. The building also boasts a brand new gym, cafeteria and music and performing arts stage right in the student commons.
The school was also built with security as a primary need. All entryways will be locked during the school day, only accessible by staff via access control key fobs. The school also has full high-definition surveillance cameras.
Architects and planners didn’t forget to add a bit of fun. In several stairwells, four 30-by-30-foot vinyl digital graphics displays featuring artwork from the soon-to-be-former BMS will be displayed on the wall, paying homage and honoring the school building’s place in Newton history.
Final costs, what’s left?
The original plan for Berg had a nearly $37 million price tag for only the construction, but Callaghan said the district was able to budget to pay for the construction, technology, furniture, fixtures and government-mandated safety testing for approximately $35.25 million.
The building is ready for students, but there is still work to do. Landscaping will be done in the spring. In summer 2019, NCSD will have completed the asbestos mitigation and underground piping removal at the old Berg and begin demolition. Once it’s gone, work will begin on a new parking lot, track, practice football field and a final hallway connecting what remains of the old structure and the new BMS.
According to Callaghan, crews still plan for the entire site to be complete by August 2019.
“We tried to make it appealing, we didn’t want to make it too industrial, we wanted to make it a nice learning space, but we also didn’t want to break the bank,” Callaghan said. “We’ve stayed under budget the whole way.”
RSVP for Sunday’s Berg open house by contacting Christine Dawson firstname.lastname@example.org or 641-792-5809.
Contact Mike Mendenhall at 641-792-3121 ext. 6530 or email@example.com