Frank Jossi // July 21, 2023
In 1962, just after John Glenn became the first person in the world to travel around the earth in space, the North St. Paul-Maplewood Oakdale ISD 622 decided to name its new middle school after him.
A school official even called famed television anchor Walter Cronkite to give him the news. Today the school has been significantly expanded and updated for the digital teaching age. The expansion also accommodates students transferring from a closed middle school.
Jeff Martin, senior project manager at Adolfson & Peterson Construction, said John Glenn was a “much-needed renovation for the district and for the kids that it served. The district didn’t have the best facilities for what they were trying to do.”
He said the expansion allows the school to grow enrollment from 800 to 1,350 students. Contractors built a new two-story, 84,000-square-foot addition for classrooms teaching home economics, technology and music classes and practice rooms. It also features a new competition-sized pool used by several schools for practice and meets, he said.
Meanwhile, the team remodeled 146,500 square feet of the existing building into science classrooms, breakout spaces and common areas. A filled-in pool became a new gym. The school district added an underground stormwater system and new bus parking.
Martin said the new configuration grouped classrooms serving the subjects into the same areas. In the existing school, “we touched every room in the building,” he said. “We tore out the main offices, left them in the same place, and refreshed the cafeteria and main gym. Otherwise, every other space was redone and repurposed.”
The project required deft scheduling and shuffling students to new quarters as renovations progressed while dealing with changing protocols brought on by the pandemic. “There was a lot of collaboration with the design team, the owner, and the subcontractors because once we had a plan in place, it would change,” he said.
Sometimes contractor teams would start as early as 4 a.m. and work late at night and on weekends when kids were not in class. The LHB-designed addition attaches crisp 21st century architecture to 1960s red brick and windows façade, a mingling the kids like. “Everybody did what they needed to do to get the job done,” Martin said. “Students like the building and have a sense of pride in their community and school.”