Enhancing education in one of the world’s most harsh climates
When it was time to replace the decades-old K-12 school in Kwethluk, Alaska, it gave the community a chance to think about its future. In rural western Alaska, changes to climate and the need for sustainable solutions required creative thinking.
The result? A 45,500-square-foot, two-story school that sits on driven piles 11 feet off the ground. The elevation protects the school from the regular spring flooding of the Kuskokwim River and its tributaries, and the two-story layout—a split from traditional single-story designs in most rural villages—offers substantial energy savings in a place where fuel prices are three times or more what they are in most urban settings.
But when it’s time to teach and learn, fuel costs and ground clearance aren’t that important. It’s about the floor-level window in the kindergarten classroom that allows students to see outside while sitting on the floor during story time. And it’s about the multi-purpose bilingual/bicultural classroom and the circular commons area that easily transition to community gathering spaces.
It’s about creating community in a place where community—no matter how small—means everything.
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