When motorists pass by the new Paducah Middle School on Lone Oak Road, they see an impressive 94,000 square foot building that is the culmination of eight years of work by lawmakers, citizens, and the Paducah Board of Education. The new school, along with major renovations that have been performed at Paducah Tilghman, Clark, Morgan, and McNabb, is the crowning achievement to the district’s facility plan.
It’s inside the building, however, that different groups notice different things.
Teachers appreciate the new technology tools that enhance their ability to teach. Administrators appreciate the facets of the building that will keep students more safe and secure. Students notice the details that have been added to make the building more student-friendly and school supporters appreciate the design elements that emphasize the proud tradition of Paducah Middle. The “something-for-everyone” aspect of the new building is a testament to the input of students, teachers, parents, custodians, and administrators in the design of the new school.
There’s plenty in the new building for teachers to like. Classrooms take advantage of the best technology available to create an optimal learning environment. Four computer labs feature ramped seating that will allow students to turn toward the front of the room to see their teacher and then turn toward the back of the room to work on computers, allowing their teachers to see what is on screen as they work. Each grade has its own computer lab, in addition to a computer lab exclusively for the technology class. The media center is triple the size of the old library and is large enough to accommodate two classes at the same time. Each classroom will have an interactive PolyVision whiteboard that is connected via an LCD projector to the teacher’s computer.
“When one of our students walked into the computer lab, she said ‘This looks like a college classroom,’” said Principal Tim Huddleston. “That’s by design. One way we can help prepare our students to be college and career ready is to give them access to the tools and technology that they will use when they go to college.”
The features that make Paducah Middle a safe, secure and energy efficient learning environment are a big plus for administrators. Wider stairwells are designed to provide more room for safe and orderly movement between rooms. The front entryway has a double set of doors for increased security. Visitors will enter the foyer, and then be signed in at the office before entering through the second set of doors. Twenty-eight cameras installed inside and outside the building allow students to be seen anywhere in the building.
The school has been designed to be energy efficient to keep utility costs down. A geothermal heating and cooling system will use moderate temperatures in the ground to produce heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. Energy efficient lighting and windows, along with the use of foam-filled blocks in the construction of the school, are expected to yield long-term energy savings. Bathroom sinks, toilets, and towel dispensers operate by motion detection. In addition to improving efficiency, this also reduces the spread of germs since students don’t have to put their hands on handles.
While this happens “behind the scenes,” students who have toured the new building are looking forward to the small details that will make the building more student-friendly.
Ask 8th grader Alexia Tyler her favorite thing about the new building and she has a ready answer: bigger lockers.
“The lockers are so much wider and taller so you can fit your jacket and books and book bags into it without difficulty,” said Tyler. 8th grader Terrell Cole likes the breezeway between the front offices and the gymnasium.
“I like the breezeway because there will be three widescreen TVs and you can look up (through the skylight) and see the sunlight or rain or snow outside,” he said.
Whatever the favorite feature of the new building, one visual aspect ties it all together and reminds faculty, students, staff, and visitors of Tornado Pride and the Paducah Middle tradition of excellence.
The district mascot, the Tornado, is inlaid in the floors of the hallways, on the sides of the stage, the gymnasium and the cafeteria as a reminder that the proud tradition of excellence in academics, arts, and athletics is entrusted to the students who walk the halls.
“As we worked on the design of the building, one of the things I pushed for was that there would never be anywhere in the building where you wouldn’t see blue and know that you were a Paducah Middle Tornado,” said Huddleston.
One symbol incorporated into the tile of the entryway brings the purpose of the new building and all its improved features into focus. A circle with compass points surrounds the school seal of a Tornado holding a pencil in one hand and a notebook in the other. In the seal is one word: Excellence.
“To remind us of our mission, when you enter our school you will see a large compass inlaid in the terrazzo floor,” said Huddleston. “On the compass there is a degree marking for Paducah Tilghman High School, where all our students are headed. It is a great reminder of our daily mission to prepare our students for success at high school and ultimately college and career.”
While the compass points narrow the viewer’s focus, another subtle design feature broadens it. Walk down the halls of the new school, or visit the gymnasium or cafeteria and you will see gentle blue curves on the walls and in the floors. The curves are reminiscent of the rivers that surround Paducah and its proud legacy of Art, Rhythm, and Rivers. The rivers around us both connect us to each other yet also have the capacity to take us to distant places. The collaboration between community, school, parents, and students has brought the new Paducah Middle School to fruition but will continue to build connections with the goal of launching our children successfully into the broader world.