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VOL. 132 | NO. 177 | Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Riverdale Expansion Goes Beyond Bricks and Mortar

By Bill Dries

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By the time work began in 2016 on an addition to Riverdale School in Germantown, the K-8 school was using 22 portable classrooms, Germantown Municipal School District superintendent Jason Manuel said.

But the focus of replacing the portables with an addition to the school quickly shifted from building a bigger school.

“We said we can be beyond the box,” Manuel said. “We can think beyond just replacement. We can think about changing instruction, changing the way we are using space in the school.”

The result is a school of 1,300 students that opened with its new addition on Aug. 7 that is designed with a new way of thinking both logistically and academically.

The recent addition to Riverdale School signals a rethinking in classroom design. The $9.7 million addition was designed by A2H and built by Zellner Construction Services. (GMSD)


And it starts with lunch.

“They were starting lunches around 10 a.m.,” Manuel said. “One of the features that you see in the school is a multipurpose room that can be used for middle school cafeteria space but that is also because of the way we arrange the seating. It’s not the traditional cafeteria tables that are all connected to each other.”

The same consideration applies for a different reason to the new classrooms along inner classroom walls of glass.

“Because we are moving into this 21st century model of instruction, you don’t have the rows of students sitting there learning things by rote memory,” Manuel said. “They are actually working in different groups. It may be groups of four one day, groups of three the next day, groups of eight. We had to provide seating that allowed them to have multiple options for those things.”

The $9.7 million school addition was designed by A2H and built by Zellner Construction Services.

Riverdale has LED lighting and a system that takes into account the level of natural light to moderate the use of LED lighting – a practice called “light harvesting.” Lights in classrooms and other parts of the building also switch off automatically if no one is in the room for a half hour.

The flooring at Riverdale also doesn’t have to be waxed and stripped every summer.

Hallways in the addition to Riverdale School in Germantown include glass walls as well as LED lighting that is coordinated with more natural light through “light harvesting” technology. (GMSD)


The expansion includes an art room that like the cafeteria can be used for after school occasions including for adults groups. The art room has a ceramic kiln and opens into an outdoor classroom. The classroom area is part of an outside educational environment that includes an amphitheater as well. The school’s band room comes with separate practice rooms to get the clarinet section in line before joining the rest of the band or let the French horns get their part worked out.

And the expansion has science labs including 3-D printers and other options.

“It’s not just the traditional science lab with the tables and Bunsen burners and the black countertops,” Manuel said. “We have that. But we also have a barge space attached where it’s got moveable tables. So when students are working with robotics they can be in there.”

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