P.K. Yonge lab school launches transformation into ‘21st century technological powerhouse’

Posted Feb. 15, 2011 GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It won’t take a magician to make the G-wing of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School disappear. A groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 14 marked the […]


February 16, 2011



Posted Feb. 15, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It won’t take a magician to make the G-wing of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School disappear. A groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 14 marked the official start of demolition of the elementary wing to make way for the school’s new elementary building.

Architect’s rendering of new elementary wing

The project is the first phase of a total campus revitalization that will transform P.K. Yonge, the University of Florida’s K-12 laboratory school, into what school and UF officials describe as a model “21st century technological powerhouse.”

The G wing, which holds fourth and fifth grade classes, is the building closest to the main office and Tumblin’ Creek, which winds through the heart of the school campus. Those classes have moved to portables on the north end of campus.

The new 37,000-square-foot replacement wing will house kindergarten through fifth grade classes. The first-phase project is expected to take 14 months and cost about $9 million. The new wing is slated to be first in line in an effort to make the entire school a green campus. The building is being designed to achieve 30 percent greater energy efficiency than traditional school facilities. UF project officials are striving for a platinum rating in LEED certification.

The entire makeover calls for tearing down all but five newer campus buildings, beginning with the elementary school, which will go from three single-story wings to one, two-story facility. The master plan includes several new buildings including a café, a global media center and a community outreach center. A new gymnasium, health and fitness center and a jogging and fitness track also are slated. For Master Plan details, visit: http://www.facilities.ufl.edu/viewprj.php?prj=6325

PKY Director Fran Vandiver

Plans for the new school embrace modern teaching methods and technology, tools and space considerations. “The new building will be set up in a learning community model,” said P.K. Yonge Director Fran Vandiver.

Closed-off classrooms will be replaced by learning studios with transparent walls, common areas and media centers. Computer labs will be replaced by wireless laptops. Vandiver said the integrated technology will teach students how to make good decisions on the Internet and make global connections for research and communication as part of their coursework.

Students also will have outdoor learning areas surrounded by nature, indoor reading lofts and comfortable chairs facing each other instead of all staring ahead at the teacher, as well as traditionally organized learning experiences. Teachers will have designated workrooms and planning areas, accessible throughout the day to encourage collaborative teaching efforts.

“If education is to give more than lip service to the concept of a 21st century education, the need to develop global citizens, and to equip students with 21st century skills, it is time to build a ‘new, new school,’ not a ‘new old school,’” Vandiver said in her groundbreaking ceremony remarks.

She said the school has not yet acquired all of the $60 million in funding needed for the whole project.

Ceremony attendees cheer the National Anthem singing by 8th grader Amanda Barwick.

P.K. Yonge alum and Board of Trustees Chairman Tommy Bronson moderated the groundbreaking ceremony and invited a host of school and community dignitaries to the podium to say a few words before the traditional dirt-moving exercise with golden shovels. Participants included UF President Bernie Machen, State Rep. Keith Perry, Mayor Craig Lowe, UF College of Education Dean Catherine Emihovich, Project Manager Bill Smith of UF Facilities Planning and Development, and, of course, Director Vandiver.

Blue Wave students also had roles in the ceremony. Eighth grade performing arts student Amanda Barwick nailed the high notes on the national anthem and elementary students Jake Outcalt (2nd grade) and Devante Mitchum (1st grade) led the dirt-shoveling ritual.

Elementary students Jake Outcalt and Devante Mitchum lead the groundbreaking ritual.

The campus revitalization project, nearly four years in the making, will be a key legacy of Vandiver’s 13-year tenure as school director. She will retire in April.

Dean Emihovich described P.K. Yonge’s forward-thinking campus renewal effort as typical of the school’s rich heritage as an education innovator.

“P.K. Yonge was into education reform before education reform was cool,” she told a crowd of about 80 attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony. “The school faculty has always been encouraged to let no assumption about teaching and education go unchallenged and to question old ideas. These advances will improve the educational experiences of every student at P.K. Yonge and serve as a model for other schools in Alachua County and across the state and nation.

“This is education reform the way it was meant to be.”

CONTACTS (all area code 352)

SOURCE: Fran Vandiver, director, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, franvan@pky.ufl.edu; 392-1554

SOURCE: William Smith, project director, UF Facilities Planning & Development, wps2@ufl.edu; 273-4030

WRITER/ PHOTOGRAPHER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 273-4137