In March, the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board unanimously selected OPN Architects to build the new Coolidge Elementary School. The future of the Facility Master Plan and how it will be addressed beyond this step, however, remains reliant on whether or not SAVE will be extended in the legislative session. The extension of SAVE would open the way for the next steps: community and staff input, design, bidding, and construction.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, OPN Architects has a diverse portfolio of recognizable work in the Cedar Rapids metro area and Corridor, including the Cedar Rapids Public Library, Paramount Theatre and Theatre Cedar Rapids restorations, Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, Federal Courthouse, Hancher Auditorium, and projects currently under construction such as the new Marion YMCA and the Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Building for Linn County’s Public Health and Child & Youth Development departments.

Founded in 1979, OPN Architects has grown to a firm of more than 110 designers with four studios in Iowa and Wisconsin. A multi-disciplinary firm with a varied body of work, OPN’s practice has always included spaces for learning for area school districts such as College Community, Linn-Mar, Marion, Iowa City, and dozens more throughout the state in addition to work on all of the Iowa Board of Regents’ campuses and many private colleges. Education projects represent 40 percent of OPN’s practice annually. With 40 years of educational experience in the Midwest, OPN Architects approaches the design of schools efficiently to create successful, high-performance academic and student-cen­tered environments. OPN designs schools for the future, not just today.

A lot has changed since many of the district’s schools, including Coolidge, opened in the mid-20th century. Rows of desks, overhead projectors, chalk boards and books no longer illustrate today’s learning environments. In the digital era, the educational landscape is rapidly transforming. Future generations will associate schools more with community, technology, creativity, and collaboration. OPN recognizes these changes are occurring at an extraordinary speed and they design to maximize the flexibility of spaces while incorporating best practices for today’s schools.

Though Coolidge Elementary has been selected to be the first school replaced as a part of the long-term facility plan to consolidate the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s elementary schools, this project has reverberations beyond the Coolidge community.

“Input from the Coolidge community will be integral in the evolution of the design. Equally important will be the participation of other district residents whose neighborhood schools are also slated to be transformed into future ready buildings in the years to come. This is a momentous opportunity to showcase for how the entire district can transition to state-of-the-art facilities that will reflect the leading-edge practices already being employed in Cedar Rapids,” says OPN Architects Principal and lead education designer Roger Worm. “As we embark on this first step of a significant educational journey for Cedar Rapids, we see an exciting chance to shape the district’s and community’s visions into a reality.”

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