With an aging and outdated school facility—parts of it nearly a century old—the Town of Deer Trail was overdue for a new school. Last week, School District 26J welcomed students into an entirely new facility—the first time the community could make such a claim since its heyday in the early 1920s. MOA ARCHITECTURE led the design of the project and Fransen Pittman served as general contractor.
The new Deer Trail PK-12 School is a 74,250-SF facility, which spans Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade and includes vocational technology classrooms and labs, athletics, commons, administration space and offices, music suite, and multi-purpose performance space. While the facility brings together the entire student population in a single building, it separates primary from secondary school functions even within shared spaces, such as the commons. The two classroom wings split grade levels into different floors and create open, collaborative spaces between the classrooms.
The opening of the facility is well-timed for Deer Trail, as the town experiences steady population growth, driven in part by the outward expansion of the nearby Denver metro area. A new 150-home housing development directly adjacent to the campus epitomizes the area’s ongoing growth.
For this small, rural community, which is located 60 miles east of Denver along the I-70 corridor, the new facility will be more than a school. Housing the new Davies Public Library and providing after-hours access to the fitness center as well as other multi-purpose spaces, the facility will be a true community center. A ribbon-cutting ceremony prior to the District’s back-to-school night gave the community a chance to explore the new building.
Given the importance of the project to the town, the community was closely involved in the planning and design stages of the campus.
“We always bring the community into our design process for schools,” said Eric Vogel, design principal at MOA. “But for this project, we knew how key it was to really integrate their thinking into this process, knowing how much use the facility would get from the community.”
For over a century, the area around Deer Trail has been a center for agriculture, with an economy based in farming and ranching. The importance of related trade skills to the area informed the design of the facility’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program, which includes an agriculture laboratory, as well as welding and construction trade laboratories. The program will give students a path to graduation that offers them both a high school diploma and marketable trade skills.
The overall design of the facility offers an open and welcoming presence to the community it serves. Forming the north edge of the courtyard at the school’s main entrance, the classroom wings feature a dramatic profile, with a soaring skillion roof that shelters the second-floor learning commons. Glued laminated timber (glulam) roof beams support the roof, with the ends of the beams extending beyond the edge of the projecting eaves. A south-facing curtainwall clerestory runs underneath the eaves of the skillion roof, pulling daylight into the commons area throughout the day, while the projecting eaves to the west protect the curtainwall glass exterior below from excessive sun in the late afternoon. The building exterior deploys a mixture of durable, low-maintenance materials, including concrete block, brick, and other masonry products, with metal panel at higher elevations.
The new PK-12 campus was made possible by a $28 million grant from the State Board of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program, with the remainder of the facility’s $36.2 million budget raised through a bond issue to the community. Designed to achieve Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) certification, the building features several sustainable design strategies, including low-use water fixtures, extensive daylighting, and natural ventilation.