Laying the Foundations

Niko Pitinii, Managing Editor

North Canton City Schools held groundbreaking ceremonies for the two new school buildings Sept. 16. The new buildings will be on Portage Street [PK-2] and Clearmount Ave. [3-5].
“The purpose of an early site package is to prepare the building area for construction of the new school,” NCCS reported in the Viking Vision in August. “An early site package allows the project to get a ‘head-start’ on the building construction. The site will be graded and ready to go so contractors can hit the ground running in the spring after winter weather has passed. When construction begins again in early spring of 2022, work will focus on installing footers and foundations for the buildings. Each school will take about 18 months to complete construction, with the grand opening scheduled for the start of the 2023-24 school year.”
The district received funding thanks to a bond issue which was approved by voters on April 28, 2020. This vote was originally going to take place on March 17 but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bond issue gave the North Canton City School District the money to build these two brand new buildings, but also to make other minor improvements around the school district. Once plans for these buildings started to be thought out, a campaign committee, led by Mr. David Cochenour, was formed to help plan these building projects.

Mr. Jeff Wendorf, superintendent of North Canton City Schools, spoke regarding district personnel involvement.
“Our administrators and our staff have done a great job balancing [the planning of the buildings] and working hard to prepare our kids for tomorrow,” he said. “We very much appreciate our whole administrative team for doing that.”
While Cochenour headed the planning committee, it took his whole team to bring these plans together.
“I tend to get all the credit, but trust me, we’re a team on these things,” he said. “I would love to thank our community for our support of us in the schools, and I would like to thank our administration and our teachers and our staff for all the hard work they do every day.”’
Principals and educators from all over the district are getting excited over these new buildings. These new schools will give students new ways to learn and grow. Mr. Ryan Kumpf, principal at Greentown Intermediate School, shares some of the new opportunities students will have at the new buildings.
“I’m really excited about our new STEAM Lab,” he said. “We are looking forward to our students using this space to explore, design, and create. Also, I’m looking forward to having all of our third-fifth grade resources available under one roof. This will be a huge benefit for our students and staff.”
These new schools will also be better integrated with the latest and greatest in learning technology. This will give students a new way to learn and teachers to create a more curated learning environment for their students.
“The new schools will have a huge impact on the way that we approach teaching and learning,” Kumpf said. “The design of the learning spaces and the integration of new technology will allow our teaching staff to provide a student-centered experience for each individual student. The classrooms and learning spaces have been designed to allow students more opportunities for collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving. All of those areas will not only impact their education but also their future career endeavors.”
Once these schools are finished, students from Clearmount and Northwood will be together in one building, and students from Orchard Hill and Greentown will be together in one building. Mr. Matthew Donaldson, principal at Northwood Elementary School, explained what this merger means for the learning environment and experience at these new schools.
“I believe the new schools will have a significant positive impact on our North Canton community,” he said. “At North Canton, one of our core values is relationships. Having all North Canton students attend a centralized school beginning in pre-school and continuing through high school will certainly connect students and families providing the foundations to connect with others to foster and build positive relationships for a lifetime.”
Once plans were set, plans went out to start the designing and construction of the buildings. Sol Harris/Day Architecture was contracted to design both of the new buildings, and Hammond Construction was contracted to help get construction crews together to begin the construction process. Both companies are locally based in Stark county and have Hoover alumni on their staff.
Hammond Construction’s job is to bring together construction crews from around the county and to provide the district with estimates on how much this all will cost. Mr. Jeff Adams, project executive for the school building construction, spoke on his company role in the construction process.
“Really what we do is we provide estimates throughout the process,” he said. “There’s obviously a budget, to begin with, you only have limited dollars to spend on a project, and so we do estimates three or four times during the design process. We make sure that we fit in the district’s budget. We will hire all the contractors that will work on the buildings for us.”
Hammond worked in tandem with Sol Harris/Day Architecture. This firm worked to design the new buildings. Mr. Burt Marzley, head architect for the new intermediate building, spoke on how the initial design process for the new buildings started.
“We held an initial visioning session kickoff, where we get together with your community members, students, staff, board members, administrators, and teachers, and just began brainstorming goals and vision,” he said. “Whatever they were hoping to achieve through the new schools, we began the process of drawing up ideas and then we come up with different plans and concepts. We’re kind of learning about North Canton.”
Sol Harris/Day also worked very closely with Cochenour’s steering committee. That committee was crucial in helping the firm in getting their plans in order for design concepts for the schools. Marzley spoke on how they developed these plans for the new schools together.
“You’re learning how they do [learning] now, and what they do well, what they want to change,” he said. “With these new facilities, it’s an understanding of how they currently operate, and what’s the vision for the future.”
While designing the exterior is an essential part of the design process, the interior is where the learning actually takes place. This requires a whole new set of hurdles to jump through. Ms. Regina Erdman, head interior designer for the new 3-5 building, spoke on the interior design process.
“We start brainstorming on how this can relate to the physical space,” she said. “We’ll probably take more of a conceptual idea and work with it thematically or keeping it conceptual and just kind of input that into the spaces of the buildings — take [the drawings] back to the steering committee. It’s an ever-evolving process.”
These new schools are going to bring so much to the community, and the young learners of North Canton, beginning in the 2023-24 school year. NCCS School Board President Mrs. Andrea Ziarko shared an inspirational quote from Winston Churchill that sums up what this project means not only for its future students, but the community at-large.
“We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us,” she said.