Cesar Chavez Elementary School Salem-Keizer School District | Salem, OR

Two new elementary schools for Salem-Keizer School District were constructed concurrently: Cesar Chavez and Battle Creek. Arcadis Architects provided full architectural services for these two 78,000 sf schools, each serving 600 K-5 students. Each school has its own unique appearance, site arrangement and building organization due to its location on one of two very different sites in the community. The 10-acre Chavez site is very open and flat, at the eastern edge of Salem, with Mt. Hood views, while the Battle Creek site of the same size adjoins a setting of creeks and mature trees of a public park developed upon a former golf course in a mature south Salem neighborhood.

While the two schools vary greatly in their site responses and sense of neighborhood fit, they offer nearly identical components based on a common education specification for a prototype elementary school. Each elementary school building can be thought of in two major parts, hinged at the center: general classroom areas in a purposefully compact two-story wing, and a gymnasium-cafeteria wing that can be zoned for evening uses. The classroom wing for each school is marked by open, shared learning areas situated among 25 classrooms and a double-height school library that serves as a focus.

Both projects had challenges related to the location of the building on the site. Battle Creek Elementary School is located on a former golf course site, most of which is within the 100-year flood boundary. The placement of the building was carefully considered to avoid future floods. Tucking the building deep inside the site had the benefit of maintaining excellent views of the adjacent City-owned parked. Cesar Chavez Elementary School was based on the prototype program which influenced the overall shape and length of the building. This building was carefully positioned on a pie-shaped piece of land set tight between parking, playfields, and required setbacks.

The budget and scope for both of these projects was based on a similar prototype building designed and constructed the prior year. It was important to the District to provide all of the amenities required by the educational specifications while creating an attractive and positive learning environment with a focus on limiting extravagance. Design and construction of these new buildings helped to relieve overcrowding of other district schools and provided a new presence of the District in areas currently without schools.

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