Tipp City, Ohio
The recently completed K-5 elementary at Bethel Local Schools stands as a testament to the collaborative effort of the visionary stakeholders of the district and the design team at Garmann Miller. This project not only addresses the needs of the teachers and students but also pays homage to the architectural heritage of the original Bethel school building.
The Bees officially opened their new $28 million facility, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, when past and present members of the Bethel Board of Education, community members, educators, parents and students came out to cut the ceremonial ribbon. The Bethel Township School building, now the Bethel District office, was built in 1917. Since then, Bethel has undergone several additions to that building to accommodate its growth. The new Bethel Elementary is the first new building for the district in 106 years.
Board of education President Lori Sebastian said a Capital Projects Fund was the mechanism which enabled the district to fund the project without going back to voters.
“Perhaps the greatest blessing during the project was the willingness of our community members to help out,” Sebastian said, who thanked board members, district staff and most importantly the community on their dedication to make this new building possible.
Conceptualization and inspiration: The project's initial concept was born from extensive educational visioning sessions, where teachers proposed an extended learning area (ELA) concept with classrooms surrounding key elements. These sessions led to the incorporation of essential features like morning meeting areas, grade level pods, flexible learning environments and specialized spaces. The final plan closely mirrors the vision set forth in the early sessions, demonstrating a successful collaboration between educators and the design team.
Honoring tradition: In a nod to the architectural legacy of the original Bethel school building, GM designers introduced limestone elements, and carefully selected brick options were integrated to harmonize with the existing high school addition.
Design challenges: Every project comes with its own set of challenges, and the Bethel elementary school was no exception. Despite facing hurdles such as material shortages and budget constraints, the district, Garmann Miller and construction manager Peterson Construction collaborated to find solutions.
The global pandemic and related material shortages posed significant challenges. Despite these setbacks, the team worked diligently to ensure the project's progress. Strategies like securing quotes in advance and allocating allowances for potential cost overruns proved crucial in navigating this obstacle.
The stadium project faced initial budgeting issues, but through resourcefulness and strategic planning, the school district managed to make significant progress. Additional fundraising efforts are underway to further enhance the stadium's amenities.
Creative collaboration with Peterson allowed for the phased construction of 5th-grade classrooms, maximizing available resources, and Bethel's unique geological conditions necessitated careful planning to minimize excavation costs. The building and stadium were strategically designed at elevations where bedrock removal was minimized, saving the district substantial expenses.
User experience and functionality: The design choices in the new K-5 prioritize flexibility and functionality. The 99,485 SF building has 44 classrooms and an adjacent media center to the main entrance for easy access during evening events. Other design elements include:
- Cozy reading nooks in the media center for an inviting learning environment.
- A seat wall at the main entrance for students waiting for transportation.
- Multiple ELAs to foster collaborative and independent learning.
- A sensory room with color-adjustable lighting to cater to special needs students.
- Thoughtful traffic flow planning, including separate bus and parent drop-off zones for safety and efficiency.
Bethel’s new K-5 building stands as a shining example of effective collaboration, innovative design and the commitment of a community to provide exceptional learning environments for its students.