SOUTH WEBER -- Solar power heats the water at the new South Weber Elementary School and K-2 Center, and windmills are a teaching tool to help students learn about wind power. The school, built in two phases, is the only one of its kind in Davis School District in more ways than one. The school is the only school housing kindergarten through second grade separately and uses innovative methods for heating.
Solar panels on top of the ship-shaped building heat the water used throughout the school. They also help to teach students about solar power, not only in the K-2 building but also in the nearby school building housing third through sixth grade.
At the time the K-2 school was planned, South Weber Elementary School had 10 portables taking up the playground, said Principal Marilyn Hales. A new school was needed.
"Two schools would have split the community," she said, and there were not enough students for two elementary schools even with a 25-year projection.
Thus, the idea of having a school to house only kindergarten through second grade was born.
"It has worked very well. It is the only one in Davis, and it reflects the younger kids, with lower sinks and smaller lunch tables," Hales said.
The old school was remodeled, moving the entrance to the west end of the building so it faces the new school and creates a campus.
"There are windmills on both schools. They are more of a teaching tool," Hales said.
"The windmills are part of the design of the buildings. They monitor the speed of the wind and compare the data. Everything is data-driven. The kids have to know how to use it."
And the solar thermal panels are a true energy savings for the school district and teach students at the same time, Hales said. "It is a renewable-energy thing. There is a lot of learning taking place."
The new school is designed with a ship/nautical theme because the nickname is the South Weber Windjammers.
The building has full-technology classrooms with closed-circuit TV where news is broadcast each Monday to everybody in the school. And security cameras are everywhere.
Rain and snowmelt is recycled from the roof, forming a waterfall into blue cut glass and creating a brilliant sight when the sun shines on the kindergarten playground.
Inside the school are periscope features that have mirrors to reflect the sky. In one, students can see the solar panels on the roof.
A reading nook in the media center has portholes that provide a view of the outdoors, and tiny lights glisten like stars. An open wall area shows what is inside of the walls and the construction of the building, another teaching tool for teachers.
The mechanical room has floor-to-ceiling windows so students can look in to see what it takes to run the two-story building, Hales said.
Librarian Jan Stanger spends half of the day in the main school building and the afternoon in the K-2 building. She enjoys the features in the new building, including the reading tower.
"It is just the right size for the little kids," she said.
Skylights on both floors bring in natural light. Sensors dim the lights in reaction to how much natural light is coming in.
There are 18 classrooms in the new building and 24 in the old.
"It is built for growth," Hales said.
First-grade teacher Cara Toomey enjoys teaching in the K-2 building and compares it with teaching in the old school.
"I absolutely love it. It is new and clean and fun to have just the young grades. I miss the other teachers, but I just think it fits for young kids -- it brings closeness, and the design is so open," she said.
Toomey likes the low windows designed for young children because they make the classrooms nice and bright, plus they allow the students to see fox and deer roaming outdoors.
"The technology and computer labs are up to date. We talk about solar power and energy from the sun," Toomey said. "Every day, we talk about the weather."
South Weber Elementary and K-2 Center
• LOCATION: 1285 E. Lester St., South Weber
• COST: $10.3 million
• HISTORY: Phase 1 completed in fall 2009; Phase 2 completed in April 2011
• SIZE: 17,860 square feet
• STUDENT BODY: Estimated at 387
• STAFF: 15 teachers and 11 support staff
• TIDBIT: The building is designed to resemble a ship, complete with a metal-art sail and a helical-shaped wind turbine. The school nickname is “The Windjammers.”