BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — The main building of the new, $133-million Essex Technical High School measures three football fields in length.
Clad in laminated wood veneer panels, it has the scale of an airport terminal.
But while the building is large, its architect says, it’s really four schools, or academies, in one.
“You really get a small-school feel,” said Dawn Guarriello, an architect with Design Partnership of Cambridge. The regional agricultural and technical school is presently under construction along Route 62 on the Essex Agricultural School campus.
Guarriello designed the massive school, and she seems to knows every square inch of it.
When it’s done, the architect said, each of the four academy buildings will have its own classrooms, labs, dining halls and administrative offices designed to meet the needs of students in each of the school’s 24 career areas. Though there will be 300 or so students in each of the academies, the building is designed “to make them feel like they are in a small school rather than a 1,440-student school,” she said.
For those who have a student in middle school interested in attending Essex Tech, an open house is scheduled for tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon on the campus at 562 Maple St. There will be presentations about the new spaces, but no tours.
Project officials gave a sneak peek at the ongoing work yesterday, however. Construction is ongoing, with up to 350 workers on the site each week, said project executive David Morrow of Gilbane Building Co. of Boston.
The school is designed so that two academies branch out from each side of the central core. This central area includes the main entrance and an upper floor media center/library, which contains a distinctive, soaring glass wall.
Just off the main lobby will be the school’s restaurant, which will be open to the public. This circular-shaped restaurant sits above the main cafeteria, which is visible below. The restaurant appears to be suspended above the cafeteria, and it’s accessible by footbridges.
There are other core spaces as well. Toward the back of the school there’s a large gym with an elevated running track and two basketball courts.
Built into the side of a slope, the building looks like a two-story building in the front, but is a three-story building at the back. Setting the building into the hill allowed Guarriello to create high bay classroom spaces that are necessary to teach trades like plumbing or electrical wiring, which often have students working on multistory buildings.
Each academy is clustered around a central dining area lit by a soaring wall of glass and steel. The dining areas will have movable seating so they can be used for group learning when it’s not lunchtime. In each academy, classrooms are clustered around a central hallway that will also be used as learning spaces. Guarriello said the goal was to use as much of the space for learning as possible.
“The design of the school really stemmed from the programs and their needs,” said Guarriello, “and then we developed the overall layout based on the needs of the teachers and also the students within the program.”
Essex Tech involves the merger of North Shore Tech in Middleton, Essex Aggie and Peabody High School’s vocational programs. Both state and local funding, from the 17 member school districts, is paying for it.
The project not only involves the construction of the large school building, but another dozen buildings in what is really the creation of a campus. It will include a sports stadium with a turf field and running track, a new large animal barn, a separate automotive repair building and other amenities.
And it will also be certifiably “green” — with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certificate, thanks to high-efficiency boilers, conservation measures and even a green roof.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
ESSEX TECH AT A GLANCE Open House: Tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 19), 9 a.m. to noon, at the campus, Route 62, Danvers Scheduled opening: September 2014 Number of students: 1,440 Sending districts: Beverly, Boxford, Danvers, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Lynnfield, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Middleton, Nahant, Peabody, Rockport, Salem, Swampscott, Topsfield and Wenham. Learning academies: Construction Technology: Carpentry, masonry, electricity, HVAC/refrigeration, plumbing, landscape and turf management, and aboriculture. Life and Natural Sciences: Environmental technology, biotechnology, dental assisting, health and medical assisting and cosmetology. Animal and Plant Science: Veterinary science, equine science, companion animals, greenhouse management, floriculture and natural resource management. Technology and Services: Culinary arts, design and visual communications, graphic communication technology, automotive technology, collision repair and refinishing, information technology services, machine tool technology/robotics