New School Looking to Future : Features Flexibility for Wide Range of Activities

The new Travis Ranch School, under construction on a 28-acre hillside site in East Yorba Linda, is a far cry from the fabled little red schoolhouses of the past and the area's first school built in 1911.

This latest and most important project of Placentia Unified School District in Orange County is a $8.7-million structure that will combine a futuristic educational concept with contemporary architectural styling. A September opening is planned.

The 94,700-square-foot, two-level building at Yorba Linda Boulevard and Dominguez Ranch Road will serve kindergarten through eighth grade and will provide a 5,000-square-foot information center, regular classrooms, special education classrooms, child-care center, auditorium/gymnasium, activity center for community use, fine-arts facilities and a vivarium--an enclosure for keeping, raising and observing animals or plants indoors.

Hard-Nose Cost Parameters

"The school will emphasize a basic core program for reading, mathematics and communications skills, with focus on the thinking and reasoning processes and problem solving," Keith Larrick, district superintendent, said.

Knowles & LaBonte of Irvine and Gilbert Aja of Laguna Hills have teamed up to carry out the design concept within hard-nose cost parameters.

A joint project of the school district and the city of Yorba Linda, the facility will serve both the students and the community, and has been designed with broad flexibility to accommodate a wide range of activities. Sliding floor-to-ceiling walls will facilitate the decrease or increase of shared spaces.

The activity center will include a full gymnasium, showers and lockers, workout room, music/meeting room for productions and a food service area.

The hub of the school will be its 5,000-square-foot information center that goes beyond the concept of a traditional library or media center to encompass new and developing methods of accessibility to mass information retrieval. Automated inventory and checkout systems may be used by all students and adults at the school.

Travis Ranch School will also house a host of sophisticated, high-technology learning tools, such as desk-top personal computers, optical laser disks, closed-circuit television, computerized air-conditioning systems and cluster classrooms.

"Currently the teacher and the textbook are the main source of student information," Larrick said, "but, by the time a text is researched, written, published and finally used by the student, the information could be up to 7 years old." Current information will be readily available in the new facility.

'Classroom of the Future'

In order to ease teachers in the transition toward high-technology, Larrick said a "classroom of the future" training program was conducted recently as a prototype of what is planned for Travis Ranch School.

Underscoring the importance of architectural styling, Larrick explained a special classroom space configuration to include a "teacher's wall" with marker board, track board, large projection screen and the bulk of the storage.

Above the teacher's wall, clerestory windows with motorized controls have been planned to provide additional natural light.

A cluster arrangement for the classrooms will allow four teachers to work with a variety of groups and will maximize supervision by teachers or principal, often impossible in the closed classroom setting. One teacher may instruct 40 students in a lecture, while two teachers may instruct 15 each in a course, and still another may work at a table with four or five students for remedial work.

Architect George Knowles said the Travis Ranch School is comparable to the cost of conventional schools.

A very real potential also exists for recouping expenses and for saving on taxpayers' money, district officials suggested, by utilizing a significant amount of down time (summers, evenings, and weekends) to rent training facilities, trainers and equipment to the private sector.

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