The Career, College & Life Skills Center at Mountain View High School is a unique place where learning for special education (SPED) students and mainstream students occurs in the same building. It is where students go for counseling help, to review their IEPs (Individual Education Programs), attend job fairs, meet with college recruiters, and learn life skills. Students who traditionally would not interact very often actually share the facility and prepare for life after high school together. With large open spaces, collaboration areas, outdoor learning spaces and shared “learning corridors” where students complete art projects, conduct experiments, participate in break-out sessions, and collaborate with their peers. The classroom corridor area includes a story-telling nook, that offers opportunities for students to connect, smaller group activities, and the display of student work. The building is a simple, steel stud structure that incorporates the use of colorful glass to protect south, east, and west-facing exposures. The structure includes continuously insulated metal panels which contribute to a high-performance building envelope that will save Marana Unified School District in energy costs over the lifespan of the school.
Located on a tight, restricted site between the existing auto shop and a drainage channel, the building steps to preserve existing trees on the west side and to conform to the unusual site constraints. The resulting building configuration creates opportunities for useable outdoor spaces and provides views of the natural environment from within, enabling building users to enjoy the proven associated health benefits. The building plan is organized in layers consisting generally of enclosed classroom spaces to the east, a learning corridor, and a linear, covered outdoor area on the west. The undulating learning corridor varies in width to serve as the main circulation way and to accommodate a wide array of break-out education and social activities. The high wood ceilings, ground concrete floors, and large sections of floor to ceiling glass reinforce the building’s important connection to its natural surroundings.
The iconic building image is created through the use of multiple gabled sections. The mountain-like roof forms extend beyond the enclosed building area to cover patio spaces and the shapes, when viewed from the channel side, look like a village along a river – recalling the saying “it takes a village”. The steel structure continues north morphing into an extremely recognizable building sign that can be seen from the heavily trafficked Thornydale Road. This visibility is very important as the Marana Unified School District is facing steep competition from an ever-growing number of private charter schools in the area. The building “skin” consists of pre-finished insulated metal panels that contribute to a high-performance, energy efficient building envelope and steel louvers on the west side protect and shade the building and exterior spaces from the harsh desert sun.
This universally accessed new facility serves the entire school population and is considered a jewel by parents, teachers, students, and staff alike.