A new school planned for south Lake County will be the first of its kind in Florida, built to support a curriculum that weaves in the outdoor environment, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as part of everyday studies for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
Slated to open in fall of 2021, the E-STEM school — the E is for environmental — will be built near Wishbone Lake, in the fast-growing Four Corners area, where Lake meets Osceola, Polk and Orange counties. Early architectural details were shared with the Lake County School Board at a workshop this week.
“It’s an incredible time to prepare a school for young people,” said Jose Murguido of Zyscovich Architects, the firm designing the school. “It’s incredible because the economy is shifting so quickly that the jobs we are preparing them for are somewhat undefined at this point. There’s so much excitement happening, and while this is going on there’s also magnificent things happening in cognitive development and understanding how children learn. Those are the things that are shaping the ideas that are creating the vision of this project.”
His company has built 25 “K8 schools,” as they are called, including the Pershing School in Orlando. The design of the Lake school will be based on that of the Pershing School, with several customizations specifically for Lake.
With a $33 million construction budget, the school will be three stories with younger students on the first two levels and older students largely on the top floor. It will house a gymnasium, STEM labs, a tree-lined walking trail, and an environmental courtyard with opportunities for students to learn through hands-on experiments.
The environmental theme is picked up in the earth tone colors planned for the exterior. It will be introduced in the entryway and will be carried out throughout the learning spaces, which will be designed to bring in natural lighting and accommodate indoor and outdoor learning.
“The school is seamlessly integrated into the site,” Murguido said.
Outdoor fields, a track and playgrounds will be provided for students along with an outdoor eating space off of the cafetorium.
While the school will be initially designed to accommodate 800 students in pre-kindergarten through 5th grade and 400 students in grades 6-8, it will come with a future expansion plan to accommodate later growth.
Because the students will range in age from 4 years old to 14 years old, it’s important to create learning communities within the school to accommodate the needs of each age group, Murguido said. Those communities will be referred to as “nests” — one each for early childcare, primary level, intermediate level and middle school level. Every nest will have its own mini-media center, with age appropriate books and learning materials, and areas designed for collaboration between teachers and between students.
“Even though it’s in a large facility,” Murguido said of the 160,000-square-foot building, “there is still a sense of intimacy within these smaller communities.”
Other amenities include a music suite, culinary arts lab, skills labs, and a large robotics hub where multi-grade levels can work and expositions can be held.
“This is what innovation looks like for your next generation of leaders,” Murguido said.
“I’m very excited about this,” said School Board member Bill Mathias. “It’s brilliant.”
“You won’t find anything like this any place else,” Superintendent Diane Kornegay said.
The School Board and staff will continue discussions with the architect, who will later present a final plan to the public.
Contact: Sherri Owens