C.W. Driver Companies has started construction on a $55 million elementary school that will be the first K-5 school in Mission Valley and one built on an unusually small site.
Designed by Domus Studio, the 77,250 square-foot school is going up on a 3.5-acre site at 7900 Civita Blvd. at the corner of Via Alta and Civita Boulevard near the intersection of State Route 162 and Interstate 8.
The school is in the 230-acre Civita project being developed by Sudberry Properties and is meant to serve people who live in Civita and surrounding neighborhoods.
The site had been used as a temporary dog park and is adjacent to a public park.
Comprised of four buildings, the school will include a two-story mixed-use building of 26,500 square feet that will include administrative offices, classrooms, and a media center/library.
The project also will include a single-story classroom building of 6,500 square feet, a two-story classroom building of 34,100 square feet, and a single-story building that will include a multi-purpose room, a kitchen, and a cafeteria with a sheltered outdoor dining area.
With a focus on sustainability, all of the buildings will have photovoltaic panels on the roofs – nearly 600 of them.
“It’s an amazingly designed project, said Keith Kauffman, project director at C.W. Driver Companies.
Domus and the school district “designed a campus and buildings in a San Diego environment that is so different from any of their other campuses.
The typical elementary school for the San Diego Unified School District is about 10 acres, Kauffman said, so one of the challenges of this project was fitting everything on a far smaller site.
Compared to the typical San Diego school, this one is very dense with every inch of available space designed for flexibility, some with multiple uses, said Tommy Ross, an architect with Domus Studio.
Most of the classrooms were designed with flexible space that opens to the outdoors.
“The majority of these classrooms have roll-up glass garage doors as a physical barrier but it preserves the views and the connections to the outdoors,” Ross said. “Those work in conjunction with walkways that are oversized so they work as pedestrian pathways and learning surfaces.”
Teachers can use part of the walkways as extensions of their classrooms. All of the classrooms have views of the outdoor play areas and all of the buildings have skylights to increase interior natural lighting.
In addition to the roll-up garage doors used in the classrooms, the multipurpose room has two large NanaWalls – oversized slider doors that open up the room to the outdoors.
“They effectively turn the entire footprint into an extension of the central play yard,” Ross said.
The open design of the campus has the added benefit of increasing the natural ventilation through the buildings.
“It’s a school for San Diego with this mild climate,” Ross said.
Although the school is within Civita, Ross said the architecture is “complementary but distinct from Civita.”
The façade has what Ross described as “a metal panel system so that we can provide a clean, modern approach that radiates into that community but with a more neutral palette.”
The school was designed well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but Ross said its emphasis on outdoor spaces fits right in with the protocols developed to deal with the pandemic.
Much of the conversation since the pandemic hit has centered on making more outdoor connections and keeping students from being fully enclosed and encapsulated.
“It makes us feel like we’ve headed off the whole situation,” Ross said. “We’re already ahead of the curve when we’re talking about outdoor learning.”
The school also has a heavy focus on technology with Wi-Fi connections and hardline connections, which also had become more important in the age of COVID.
“It’s another one of those elements, given the pandemic, that’s getting a lot more attention at this point with distance learning and wireless learning,” Ross said.
From a pure construction perspective, Kauffman said the project was atypical because the campus is set at a lower grade from the rest of Civita so it required a shoring wall that he said is from about 500 feet to 600 feet.
“You don’t see it on schools very day. It encapsulates the entire north side of the campus and the vast majority of the west side,” Kauffman said.