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The Bettendorf Community School District’s new $16.7 million Grant Wood Elementary School is taking shape on the hillside just south of the existing school, and is expected to be substantially completed by July 31, said Jeff Michels, senior project manager for Estes Construction, Davenport, the general contractor.

The building's most striking architectural feature will be a two-story, 40-foot wide wall of glass, both front and back, that will be in the middle of the building, connecting two wings on either side. This area is dubbed the "innovation spine," architect Jeff Sandberg, of Legat Architects, Moline, said.

The primary benefit of the new school at 1423 Hillside Drive is that it will be bigger than the current building — 62,500 square feet, compared with the existing 37,000 square feet, and it will accommodate three classrooms of each grade, up from the current two.

The additional size will increase the school's capacity to 450 students, up from 350, and the classrooms themselves will be bigger, growing from 740 square feet to 920 square feet, school principal John Cain said.

In addition to space, there will be other changes for 21st century learning, Cain said.

These include a large library with “a maker’s space with a ‘sloppy’ lab,” he said. The space will allow for “more hands-on science experiments and creative activities with access to sinks and water.”

There also will be a “learning stairway” – a wide staircase that students can use for the usual purpose of traveling between floors but also serving as a place where they can sit for instruction as well as large-group gatherings and assemblies, Cain said.

Another innovation that might not strike non-teachers as important is the placement of shared bathrooms between two classrooms. “This saves a lot of learning time,” Cain explained.

With this change, individual students can leave the classroom as needed rather than having a formal break where all students leave the room, wait in line, then take time to settle back down, he said. Or, the  alternative of having an individual student and a required buddy leave the room, thereby missing out on learning.

The gym will 6,000 square feet, the size one typically sees in a high school, Cain said, and a big increase from the current 3,500-square-foot space. There also will be a commons/eating area. The existing school has no cafeteria, with students eating in the gym.

When the existing school is removed, the site will be graded and a parking lot installed that will more than double the current capacity, growing from 42 spots to 100, Cain said.

The exterior of the building is made of pre-cast concrete panels with three-fourths-inch bricks embedded into the concrete in a vertical pattern, Michels, of Estes, said.

The vertical pattern complements the school’s decidedly vertical windows, and the concrete has a sandblasted finish with indentations around the windows to create more visual interest, architect Sandberg said.