New Northside is green, interactive, historically rich

Aug. 22, 2013 @ 02:09 PM

Northside Elementary will open its doors once again as Chapel Hill’s newest state-of-the-art school that will use the building as an interactive teaching tool.

On the same site as the original Northside Elementary that served as the community’s African American elementary school prior to integration, the new $26.4 million building integrates the old and the new while being kind to the environment.
The more-than 103,000-square-foot three-story school is nestled on five acres of land and will be ready to open its doors for Monday’s start of the 2013-14 school year.

Northside principal Cheryl Carnahan said that 498 students from Pre-K through fifth grades will fill the halls of the new school.
“Tonight (Thursday at the Meet the Teacher event) will be the first time that our students and families will be able to tour our school,” Carnahan said at a news conference Thursday morning. “There are so many features that are unique to our school.”
One of the unique features is the Lucid building dashboard, an interactive program that allows anyone to track the school’s impact on the environment in real-time via a touchscreen in the school’s media center.
Architect Stephen Nally of Moseley Architects explained that students and teachers can use the dashboard to check on the school’s use of and impact on water, sunlight, nature and other categories.
“This building tells you all about its energy usage and Lucis graphs it for us,” Nally said. “The kids can then use the data in their math and science classes.”
Some of the other features unique to Northside’s new campus include a storm water retention system underneath the school’s parking lot and playground areas, a green roof – rooftop garden that is accessible through one of the school’s learning centers that also provides light to the art class via two skylights, interactive whiteboards in each classroom and composting and recycling programs for the entire school.
Teachers will wear small microphones while in the classrooms that will broadcast their voices through the class’s speakers to ensure that all students can hear what is being said.
Students will eat meals made from scratch in the state-of-the-art kitchen in the cafeteria and collected rain water will be used to flush the school’s toilets, offsetting water use by about 87 percent.
Additionally, the students’ chairs are ergonomic and allow for a little bit of bounce, Nally said, that will let student release excess energy while increasing blood flow and allowing better focus during instruction.
With all of the new bells and whistles, Northside did not ignore its rich history within the community. Carnahan explained that the first visitors to the new building were about 95 people who had been there years ago as students.
“The Northside Elementary, Orange County Training School and Lincoln High School alumni came and took the first tour of the new building,” she said. “It’s so joyful to have this school in the community again.”
The new Northside Elementary was Northside School, Orange County Training School and Lincoln High in the past. Dating back to 1924, Northside has a lot of history and the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School system was sure to incorporate that into the new design.
Along the hallway on the first floor heading to the cafeteria is a timeline charting the life of Northside.
“The quote, ‘Without the past, we have no future’ by Marian Cheek Jackson marks the beginning of the school’s story. What follows are pictures with information detailing the history of Northside including its time as a Rosenwald School, as Orange County Training School and on through integration.
There is a display case for the school’s students to add their piece to Northside’s history along with room on the wall for bulletin boards that will display their work and legacy.
There is also a historical display that contains the original cornerstone for Northside with ‘Orange County Training School 1924’ carved on its surface. Pictures of the school’s former football teams, bands, newspaper staff, classes and graduation tell the school’s story in black and white.
Surrounded by so much history, students at Northside will also be a very active part in the 21st century with a 2:1 ratio of students to iPads and other opportunities that are unique to this school.
“Our students will be thinking, learning and growing with purpose, persistence and pride,” Carnahan said. “We know that all children can learn given the right instruction and the time.”
Students, teachers and teacher assistants will use the iPads to “collaborate, communicate and create” Carnahan explained, noting that they will routinely be asked how they can accomplish those three things with their technology.
Carnahan added that the school will integrate the building, the community and the history of the school into the project-based learning that will take place with students.