Derby North Middle School
In 2010, the Derby community engaged in an effort to study the future of its school facilities. It concluded that the existing 1,000-student 7th and 8th grade middle school and its 500-student counterpart, the Derby Sixth Grade Center were too crowded for the students population. To resolve the problem, Derby Public Schools expressed a desire to combine all three grades into two separate 6th-8th grade middle schools. An in-depth facilities study by the architect revealed the need for a new 900-student middle school, which was realized with the new Derby North Middle School. As part of a $66.6 million bond issue approved by voters in 2012, the new 6th- 8th grade D.N.M.S. was constructed along a major arterial for the Wichita-Derby area on a site of cultivated fields and perimeter tree rows. Because development in the Derby area was quickly moving towards the site, building a new school at this location was ideal.
Derby Public Schools directed the architect to design a building that implemented sustainable and learning-focused features, emphasizing interactive technology, energy efficiency, daylighting, and a colorful, design-conscious interior. The completed building consists of four main areas: a centralized entry and cafetorium (cafeteria/ auditorium) space, an athletic complex, academic classroom wings and exploratory classroom wings. With the use of repetitive elements, transparent volumes and alternating materials, students encounter the building’s design features at every scale.
Upon entering the building, students are greeted by a light-filled cafetorium. Using the school’s colors and warm wood tones, the cafetorium seats 300 at lunch periods, and provides seating for more than 600 during a performance. From this space, students can navigate the “Main Street” corridor leading to the academic and exploratory wings or explore the building’s state-of-the-art athletic complex. Behind the cafetorium stage, a large music suite doubles as a FEMA-funded storm shelter.
The building’s athletic complex is organized around a top-loading 1000-seat gymnasium with perimeter walking track. The gymnasium utilizes the cafetorium as lobby space, creating a place for spectators to gather during competitions. Adjacent to the main gymnasium is a 400-seat auxiliary gymnasium and large multi-purpose/fitness space. The facility’s two-level, walk-out plan allows for lower level locker rooms, a weight room, and additional entrances for athletes and patrons.
The academic area is separated into three classroom pods, one for each grade. Classroom pods are located on one side of the day-lit “Main Street” corridor which runs from the cafetorium to the opposite end of the building. On the other side of “Main Street”, three exploratory pods provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. The largest exploratory pod encompasses the media center. The high volume, light-filled media center accommodates both large and small groups and creates a dynamic and interactive learning environment. Other spaces in the exploratory wings include a Family and Consumer Science (FACS) lab, Project Lead-the-Way technology suite, art classrooms and a media production room. Classroom pods and hallways surround three interior courtyards designed for outdoor learning, and that provide daylight to classrooms.
Interactive learning is supported by wireless technology that accommodates student iPads and flat-panel displays in all teaching spaces. Energy efficiency is obtained with a well-insulated building envelope, more than 150 energy-efficient heat pumps, specialized glazing, solar shades in large day-lit spaces, and courtyard solar arrays that feed power back to the school. The site uses low-maintenance, drought-tolerant grass and landscaping.
“They were always available to answer our questions, even the obvious ones, and they were never out of touch or too busy to take a call or answer an email when we needed them, including nights and weekends. In short, they never let us down.”
Craig Wilford, Superintendent, Derby Public Schools