Students of Palouse Prairie Charter School in Moscow will be greeted with an entirely new school building when they return in the fall.
PPCS Executive Director Jeneille Branen said construction crews will continue to work on details and landscaping through the summer, but for the most part, the building itself is finished. Teachers have already moved into the new space, she said, and the school should be fully prepared to begin operations no later than Aug. 1.
Situated on the northern edge of the Moscow city limits at 406 Powers Lane, the new building cost about $2.5 million all told and was financed through school savings, donations and loans, Branen said. It’s been more than three years since the school first unveiled plans for the new facilities, but Branen said PPC has always planned to expand to a newer space better suited for the hands-on, experiential curriculum it provides. In the 10 years the school has been in existence, she said administrators have saved and budgeted carefully for such an eventuality. Branen said those efforts have culminated in a “modest but very beautiful, fresh, clean school.”
“It’s actually smaller — we had a lot of underutilized space at our current building just because of the shape of our school,” Branen said. “One of our main goals in building the school was to really have large classroom sizes so our classroom square footage is 800 square feet per classroom.”
Branen said PPC’s previous home at 1500 S. Levick St. was limited in a number of ways, including that it did not have adequate access to natural spaces for outdoor learning. The new space has a view of the rolling hills and farmland of the Palouse, and is within walking distance of Moscow’s coming edible forest park. Branen said there is a growing body of research indicating that students benefit from direct contact with the natural world. She said this new proximity to local flora and fauna dovetails neatly with PPC’s experiential teaching styles and will allow them to deliver instruction in outdoor environments.
“Even at this (current) space, we would do that but they would be on concrete — now they are going to be in beautiful green spaces, with beautiful views,” Branen said. “We do a lot of hands-on learning, which requires them to not be in the classroom so now we feel like we have better spaces for that.”
Future renovations are planned for the school, Branen said, but she estimated those are between five and 10 years away.
Another institution, Moscow Charter School, had also planned to build new facilities for the coming school year, but was forced to delay the project because of rising construction costs, according to school Administrator Tony Bonuccelli. He said they have since adjusted designs in the hopes of reducing the cost of construction and are aiming to break ground in the early fall, if all goes to plan.
“We just reduced by one classroom and just changed some structural things and we think we’ll be able to come in at the right price,” Bonuccelli said. “We’re in a space of ‘want’ not ‘need’ — right now, we have a fully functioning campus where we’re at, we just want to make it better, but we aren’t going to sacrifice our programs or anything else just to have a building.”
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