A look at the Kindergarten Collaboration area
The role we’re going to play in the formative years of these kids’ lives is immeasurable ... So we’ve got to make it count.
Cadence Park Principal Carlo Grasso
Our teachers are the people who are going to make the difference in the lives of the kids.
The Cadence Park gym (above) was designed to also act as a community hub for local groups and organizations.
Cadence Park school opens
Next generation education is in the design and the details at Cadence Park, Irvine Unified School District’s cutting-edge new K-8 school in Great Park Neighborhoods
Kedric Francis |August 26, 2018
When visiting the Cadence Park neighborhood of Irvine in late summer of 2018, one could be forgiven for admiring the new Art Deco-inspired group of buildings gleaming fresh and new in the afternoon sun, imagining it to be an exclusive resort.
The architecture is cool and contemporary, with gleaming and curvilinear buildings joined by central walkways, the ends of which frame views of the mountains and ocean in the distance. There are intricately inlaid wood ceilings and innovative lighting. The many windows, solar tube lighting and contemporary roll-up doors let the natural light in, and there are views of (and easy access to) the many landscaped courtyards, plazas and gardens.
Despite its beauty, this isn’t a hotel; it’s a public school. Named Cadence Park for its location in the Great Park Neighborhoods, the 94,000-square-foot school is set on a 13-acre campus. Cadence Park opens for the 2018-19 school year as the newest school in Irvine, the fourth K-8 school in the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) and the district’s 40th school overall. Cadence Park was designed by PJHM Architects, an Orange County firm that specializes in innovative schools, and built by C.W. Driver.
FivePoint Holdings, LLC’s partnership (Heritage Fields El Toro LLC) funded its construction as IUSD’s development partner.
The school’s extraordinary aesthetics are symbolic of the state-of-the-art educational facilities included for all grade levels and courses of study throughout the campus.
Designed to meet the rapidly changing needs of 21st Century students, Cadence Park will help develop skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity for students.
“The role we’re going to play in the formative years of these kids’ lives is immeasurable,” says Cadence Park Principal Carlo Grasso, pointing out that some kids might spend nine or ten years (counting transitional kindergarten) at the K-8 school. “So we’ve got to make it count.”
Features that make the school unique include dedicated music and science rooms, an innovative library/media center with a story space called the “illumination room,” a large auditorium, a fitness lab and a full-size gymnasium, which is rare in comparable schools. There are indoor and outdoor col laboration spaces throughout the campus that will be used by all grade levels. The 6-8th grade quad includes an outdoor performance pavilion, covered small group instruction areas, space for outdoor science activities and a garden.
Classrooms and learning spaces are highly flexible, offering a variety of seating and work stations for students and teachers that can be easily moved throughout the room and even outdoors. There might be desks, cushions, or benches arranged in rows or circles—however the teachers want them, and not tied to a traditional floor plan.
“Flexible space is extremely important,” agrees Sharon Wallin, President of Irvine Unified School District Board of Education. “We know now that kids want to move. And they learn better when they’re able to move. So kids will no longer only sit in a seat at a desk.” And neither will the teachers.
The workstations for teachers are “minimal and movable,” says Principal Grasso. “You won’t see a massive desk in the front of the room. They have modular, mobile stations, with a wireless iPad or computer so they can teach from anywhere, walk around and interact, as opposed to standing in front of the classroom.”
But what if a teacher prefers the comfort and commanding presence of a large, traditional desk? “Those teachers we chose not to hire,” Grasso says diplomatically. “It’s not about what works best for the teacher, but how they can create the most inviting and engaging environment for students.”
In fact, even with all the design details and innovative educational facilities and features at Cadence Park, what excites Grasso most is his staff of teachers.
“Our teachers are the people who are going to make the difference in the lives of the kids,” Grasso says, noting that the single greatest determinant of learning and engagement in the school is the quality of the teacher. “Bringing together teachers that have a passion to innovate, collaborate and learn from one another, to do so against a backdrop of such a flexible facility, is just a remarkable opportunity.”
As is developing the culture at the new school. “A big reason people come to Irvine is world-class education,” Grasso says. “But they’re not really sure what that means. Our job is to help develop well-rounded humans ready to meet the needs of a very different world than we were preparing them for a generation ago, and to help educate parents about what the research shows is best for kids.”
“We are building schools for students of today and of tomorrow,” Wallin adds. “So Cadence Park isn’t just designed for what’s happening now, but to be flexible for how kids will learn for decades and decades.”