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New Madera school elegant as a Rose, hard as granite

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

The students of Virginia Lee Rose Elementary School gather with roses and crowns for a ribbon cutting ceremony and rose parade on Wednesday of last week.


Madera Unified School District, in its 12-year race to meet its future school facilities needs, has taken a giant leap out of the starting gate with the opening of Virginia Lee Rose Elementary School, named after the longtime Madera community leader and benefactor who died in 2014 at age 80.

The 21st century school with a Tuscan look now sits in what some are calling “royal splendor” on Avenue 14 ½ and Road 28, the first of seven new Madera schools set to open by 2028.

With a capacity for 825 students and situated on 15 acres, Rose Elementary has set the tone for the district’s 12-year expansion plan, according to Deputy Superintendent Sandon Schwartz.

Although architects say safety and security were the top priorities in planning the school, Schwartz says the influence of Madera’s history is evident in its form and function.

Rose Elementary sits near the site of the old Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company’s mill. As one approaches the front gate, a curved wall of Sierra White Raymond granite, rather than the traditional concrete, identifies the campus as “Virginia Lee Rose Elementary School.”

Inside, the school’s historic connection with Madera’s past is underscored on some of the walls, which are covered with refinished, reclaimed lumber. In the center of the teachers’ workroom is a 13-foot slab of varnished Sugar Pine, which has been transformed into a table.

The historic connection is continued in the space between the classrooms, where Raymond granite learning walls with boulders for sitting on, await small-group learning instruction. According to Schwartz, students can use dry-erase pens on the granite just as they would on the boards in their classrooms.

The configuration of Rose Elementary’s buildings departs from the more traditional arrangement of rows of structures. As one enters the new campus, the view offers a radial design, with the classrooms, library, multipurpose room and offices arranged in a circle around an amphitheater.

Tuscan style architecture prevails throughout, with its red tile arches and blend of rust color with earth tones, giving it a mission look.

The visitor will look in vain for air conditioners on top of the buildings. They are hidden in wells on the roofs.

According to principal architect, David Iwanaga of SIM-PBK. Inc., his firm spent a considerable amount of time meeting with various community groups, seeking their input. What resulted was a school unique in its design, not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Mobility reigns supreme in each classroom as all of the furniture is on wheels — chairs, teachers’ desks, and the giant interactive display boards that can be moved from group to group.

To help the school meet the state’s curriculum standards, each 6th grade classroom has a built-in science lab.

According to Rosalind Cox, director of Facilities Planning and Construction Management, district administrators spent 9 months working with the architects before construction began in July of 2016.

In 2019, Madera Unified will open Matilda Torres High School, the next campus in the 12-year plan.

It will be followed by a concurrent enrollment middle school, another elementary school, two comprehensive middle schools, another high school, and a new adult education facility.


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