Architects hold focus groups for new high school
Eight focus groups met in 45-minute segments Thursday with two architects and an interior designer from StruXture Architects, the Waterloo firm hired by Fairfield Community School District to work with Carl A. Nelson & Company on renovations at Fairfield High School.
At the Nov. 26 school board meeting, superintendent Art Sathoff told board members the architects wanted to meet with members of the community and hear candid thoughts about FHS and plans for renovations. No school district staff or administrators could attend the focus group meetings.
Fairfield school administrators and board members selected, recommended and invited community members — about 10 to each group to allow for everyone’s voice to be heard. The meetings took place back-to-back throughout the day and sometimes
two meetings were held simultaneously.
Focus groups included FHS and middle school students, business leaders, FHS teachers, parents, rural residents, civic groups, booster and activity club members, elected city and county officials and more.
One group included Fairfield City Council members Martha Rasmussen, Michael Halley and Daryn Hamilton; city administrator Kevin Flanagan; Jefferson County supervisors Dick Reed and Lee Dimmitt; and state representative Curt Hanson.
StruXture architects Craig Schwerdtfeger and Nicholas Hildebrandt along with interior designer Megan Smith had seven questions to guide discussions, and each focus group had the same questions. Hildebrandt and Smith took notes of remarks made by the focus groups.
Schwerdtfeger said the purpose of meeting was to hear from a cross-section of the community about plans for the high school. He invited everyone to speak freely; the architects were interested in hearing community opinions and feelings.
The questions most discussed in the group with the elected officials and Flanagan were:
• What things regarding the Fairfield High School are you most proud?
• What things about FHS are you most concerned?
• How do you see education changing in the next 10 years?
• How do you see Fairfield changing in the next 10 years?
• What is the one thing you see FHS needing to provide the students for the best education in the 21st century?
Points of pride brought up in this one focus group included Trojan Stadium, the diversity of sports and activities such as theater and music programs, the teachers, the students and the solidness and durability of the 1939 building.
Concerns included some of the same issues the school board has highlighted, such as lack of accessibility for physically challenged individuals, updates for technology, the air handling system, building security, lack of coherent flow pattern for traffic in the building, book lockers, parking lot and flexible learning spaces.
Changes anticipated in the next decade ranged from a growing population settling here for good jobs, the need for flexibility in the school’s layout and use, a long range vision so the changes are not obsolete in 30 to 50 years and providing for use of more and more technology.
What more FHS needs to provide to students included ideas for more variety of vocational training classes, support for classes offered now at the Career Academy and in Project Lead the Way, better science labs so the school could better emphasize STEM classes – science, technology, English and math and an appealing and vibrant building that excited students to be there and to learn.
Hildebrandt said the architect team would compile all the notes from all the focus groups and present them to the school board in the near future.