Norris Design, Austin, Gatesville, Landscape Architecture, Planning

Gatesville Outdoor Classroom

September 15, 2014

On November 5, 2013, the voters in Gatesville ISD overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum for a new elementary school to serve 800 students in Grades 1-3. The new facility is being constructed on the site of the existing elementary school, which will remain in full operation during construction. Due to an overlap of the two facilities, a phased approach will be required which will see the academic portion of the new school built and then the academic portion of the existing school demolished to make way for the core space portion of the new building. Construction began in June and in the summer of 2015 the remaining portion of the existing facility will be demolished and the last of the sitework built to create the completed project.

The site has several large, healthy, valuable trees which the district has said are not sacred, but asked that as many of them as possible be saved. The site strategy for the new elementary meets all of these challenges as well as the goals of the district for the completed campus.

In addition the standard minimal requirements that are typically required by public schools, the Gatesville Elementary has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Brown Family in honor of their late wife & mother, Anne Brown, who was a former teacher. The family requested an outdoor learning space that would serve as an outdoor classroom for staff and students. They approached the design team with thoughts of pre-manufactured shade structures and a small amphitheater, however a design that exceeded their expectations was presented and is now in construction. NDLI was involved with siting and programming the outdoor classroom, which includes an amphitheater built into existing grade, a cistern for harvesting rainwater, a bioswale and raingarden, and small gathering spaces with interactive musical and nature features to encourage learning through play. All of this is designed to be in the shade around a large oak tree that the community refers to as 'The Tree of Life'.