On nice days, large, glass garage-like doors can open on the sides of the cafeteria area for the Springville campus of the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, bringing in a literal breath of fresh air to the school.
“I can’t wait to see this space when the trees are in bloom and these doors are open and the inside and outside are the same experience,” Joel Coleman, the superintendent for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, said as he stood in the space Thursday in a hardhat and long coat.
That day is coming soon. Construction started on the $13 million school in March and is expected to be complete in January. Its students have been housed in portables across Utah County in the meantime.
The school, designed by Jacoby Architects, includes architectural features to help students who have hearing or vision loss navigate the facility. Those include wide, open spaces so students can sign to each other, contrasting colors to help the vision impaired locate parts of the school and floor materials that change so that students who use canes know where they are.
“They were able to design in all the things that make a difference for the kids,” Coleman said.
When complete, the school will have 14 classrooms that will each hold from four to 13 students. The building will start out as an elementary school and will eventually house some middle school students.
The playgrounds are designed to be navigable for students who are blind and were created without wood chips so that students in wheelchairs can use them. The school also includes a sensory garden for students who are blind.
The Springville school is expected to see students from Nephi up to Orem. As more children are born in Utah County, Coleman said the state expects to see the number of children with disabilities increase, as well.
While other states have students with vision impairments or hearing loss in mainstream classrooms, Coleman said Utah allows families to choose between a traditional school or one of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Coleman said the specialized schools give students the tools they need to be self-reliant.
“We want them, like any other child, to make a difference in the world,” he said.
The Springville location is located just south of the Clyde Recreation Center and will join campuses in Ogden, Orem and Salt Lake City.