0722 Corbin primary Wilder

Principal Travis Wilder stands in the media center of the new Corbin Primary School.

By Sean Bailey / Staff Writer

“It’s a dream. Nothing is in the way of teaching,” Corbin Primary School teacher Ann Jewell said as she emerged from her classroom’s walk-in storage area.

Jewell was talking specifically about each classroom’s cavernous walk-in “closet,” but really she could be talking about Corbin’s newest school’s “teacher-centeric/learning-centeric” design in general. The school’s final design — all the details from class sizes to light fixtures — were part of a collaborative effort between architects and teachers.

“We (the teachers) were going all sorts of directions, and they were able to channel all of it together,” Jewell said of the school’s designers.

Next Monday night at 7 p.m. the community will be able to get a look at the collaboration during what the school is calling the “Grand Celebration.” The Kentucky education commissioner and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo are planning to be in attendance to view the school’s cutting-edge design.

Community members will be greeted by an old-time railroad clock and a ceiling that recalls the bygone railroad depot in its main entrance. The railroad motif is continued throughout the building — even lamp fixtures conjure up images of the height of train travel.

“Corbin is a train town. We wouldn’t be here without the train,” Corbin School District Superintendent Ed McNeel said.

The old-time look is a celebration of the area’s cultural and historical heritage, but tucked into each room is the latest in learning technology.

Each room comes equipped with “touch-boards.” Touch boards are a far cry from the dusty chalk boards — or even the white dry-erase boards that have popped up in recent years. They are interactive, and by simply touching the surface, a user can access the Internet, watch an instructional film or simply draw — and all of it in real-time.

“Before they are out of second-grade, students will be able to use (computer) spreadsheets,” Principal Travis Wilder said. “This is really a building of the 21st century. They, the teachers and designers, not only looked at what they need in here now, but looked to what classrooms will need in the future.”

Besides have the newest in teaching technology in each classroom, the building itself sits on “green” technology that wasn’t even dreamt of in Corbin’s old-time train days. McNeel said below and around the building there are 200 thermal wells that help maintain the building’s climate.

Geothermal technology, as it is called, uses the earth’s naturally generated heat deep below the ground. Each well harnesses this heat to help warm or cool the building. Using the geothermal technology greatly reduces the need for fossil fuels.

Which means the school district is not only saving money, in a small way it’s helping combat global warming.

Technology and design motifs are not the only thing that is setting Corbin Primary apart from other elementary schools — the school’s lay-out itself is unique.

“Really this is three schools in one, three different school environments in one larger building,” McNeel said.

The centerpiece, or “heartbeat” of the school, as principal Wilder sometimes calls it, is the media center. It has areas for all sorts of interactive learning, from the traditional library area, to a “creation area” which is equipped with sinks and storage areas for “creation” supplies.

Branching off from the media center are the school’s three “pods.” Each pod has a common area with computers and three classrooms, one for each grade level. During a student’s three-year stay, kindergarten through second-grade, he or she will stay inside that particular pod.

To keep with the train depot theme, each pod has its own train. Local artist Emily Lackey and her sister Natalie painted scenes that all Corbinites will recognize — the Corbin rail underpass and the Cumberland Gap tunnel, to name a few.

And each mural has a little piece of hidden local charm in it. One mural has a mileage sign that says “Corbin 3.” Corbin Primary is three miles from downtown Corbin. One train is labeled “40701,” which of course is Corbin’s postal code.

But with all the little details in design and all the technical improvements, the school is still designed to do one thing, teach the youth of Corbin.

“The whole philosophy behind the building’s design ... is to teach students to think critically and to apply that critical thinking,” Wilder said.

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