The Norman Public Schools Board of Education plans to announce at 4 p.m. today, during a special board meeting, which of the three architecture firms vying for selection has been chosen to oversee the design and construction of the district’s new elementary school on Southeast 24th Avenue.
The board evaluated presentations from the firms Monday, during another special board meeting, posing questions after the presentations about concerns for security, sustainability, community use and the project’s timeline.
Candidates include the Oklahoma City-based office of Crafton Tull Sparks & Associates, Norman-based Kaighn and Associates and The Stacy Group, with offices in Edmond and Owasso.
Crafton, Tull, Sparks & Associates bases its designs around the concept of mind, body and spirit, said Nate Baker, vice president of the Oklahoma City office, during the company’s presentation.
Baker said education’s natural drift toward this concept makes school projects consistent bullets on the company’s resume, such as Barnes Elementary in Owasso.
Baker emphasized the company’s ability to tune into the needs of the district, in order to meld the yin and yang of design and creativity.
With a staff of 300, Baker promoted the company’s large-scale resources coupled with the small firm feel of the Oklahoma City office.
“I think we have the best of both worlds,” he said.
Baker touted pod construction as a creative security measure and the company’s track record for completing projects on time and under budget.
Kaighn and Associates reiterated its hometown ties and lengthy project list with Norman Public Schools — including 91 projects from 2002 to 2005 bond issues and 35 projects from the 2007 bond issue — during its presentation, as photos of completed projects like Truman Primary School and the Nancy O’Brien Center were projected onto a screen.
“We’re part of the Norman community,” said Bill Kaighn, principal of the firm. “Most of us have had kids… I’ve had grandkids… go through the Norman Public Schools.”
Kaighn said the firm has done work at every site in the district.
He said the firm already has walked the site of the new elementary school and assisted in selecting the surveyor.
Kaighn reiterated as strong points the firm’s familiarity with the project, working relationship with the district and city, along with helping establish construction standards for local projects and reputation for keeping costs under budget.
“We can hit the ground running,” he said, projecting a 26- to 28-month timeline for the school.
The Stacy Group attributed its sole focus on education projects to the national awards several of its school buildings have won.
“We just do education. We think that makes us better,” President Mike Stacy said.
Stacy also credited the broad involvement of the firm — from design stage to the warranty walk-through — to the success of its buildings, which he said compensates for the smaller 12-member firm that offices seven employees in Owasso and five in Edmond.
“We want to make sure the people who made the decisions in the room are out there in the field,” Stacy said.
Stacy flipped through slides modeling one of the firm’s most recent projects: Stone Canyon Elementary in Owasso.
Stacy said the firm completed the 98,000-square-foot project in 17 months.
He highlighted the school’s pod construction, which featured six classrooms divided by grades segregated in individual corridors. Each pod featured a common space and outdoor classroom.
He said this design also is a safety precaution, since the main entrance doors to the pods can be shut in an emergency, as students exit through the outdoor classroom.
Nature themes are consistent through the firm’s work and each pod has its own animal mascot, Stacy said, noting the large bees on the carpet in one of the pods. This also serves as an education tool and unites each grade under a shared identity.
“Any of these groups are capable of doing this kind of project,” said Mike Mize, of Architectural Design Group Inc. and project manager for the 2009 bond issue projects, as the board exchanged glances after the presentations.
In other business, the board approved a resolution authorizing the district to lease property to the Cleveland County Educational Facilities Authority, in order for the district to receive its $65 million upfront for 2009 bond issue projects to be completed in the next two to three years.
The district will pay back these lease revenue bonds over the next five years.