JMS Finds its Way to a New Home

Brent Riessen knows that sometimes, middle school students need a little help finding their way.

The Johnston Middle School principal calls it “wayfinding” and he also calls it the new design and layout of their renovated space in the former Johnston High School.

An architect’s rendering of the updated front on the renovated Johnston Middle School (formerly Johnston High School).

An architect’s rendering of the updated front on the renovated Johnston Middle School (formerly Johnston High School).

As part of the facilities project, when staff and students in grades 10-12 have moved out of the former JHS and into the new building, Johnston Middle School staff and students will move in. Over the summer months, construction crews will be putting in long days to update the space.

“A lot of what’s being done is aesthetic,” said Riessen. “There will be an updated entrance and front office area, a new fronting with more curb appeal, and within the building, we’re using the wayfinding concept to organize sections of the building.”

Riessen, who served as the JHS principal before going to the middle school, is familiar with the building. He realized the layout mirrors the city of Johnston, with major north-south hallways laid out like Beaver Avenue, Merle Hay Road, 86th Street, NW 100th Street, and Highway 141. Similarly, the hallways running east and west are Meredith, Interstate 80, 62nd Avenue, and NW 70th.

“We did surveys with students and intercept interviews with parents to run the idea of laying out the building in terms of street names and colors,” said Riessen. “It’s a huge benefit to have been in the building before and understand the different areas. This is a new way of thinking about the space and something we believe will make sense as kids navigate a larger school.”

Tom Wollan, partner and architect with FRK Architects + Engineers, said much of the focus on the JHS to JMS renovation is about creating a new identity for the building and those in it.

JMS staff played a large role in the design study process. Nearly 25 percent of staff participated in the learning space committee, where they worked with architects from FRK Architects + Engineers and Stahl Construction, the district’s construction management company. The committee provided input and ideas for the new space, and helped in the prioritization before presenting the overall design to the staff as a whole.

“The aesthetic updates will help everyone feel like we’re in ‘our’ new space, and we’ll be taking the 2017-18 school year to live in the building and see if there are more permanent things we’d like to see done, such as different kinds of collaboration spaces and work areas,” said Riessen.

Renovation on the new JMS will begin immediately after school ends on June 2. David Dominguez, Stahl construction project manager, said coordinating a multi-part move is a big undertaking at an already busy time.

“Coordinating the moves between students and staff moving out of the current high school and into the new building, while getting JMS staff into their new home – and giving people enough time to get all of that done – is a huge challenge,” Dominguez said. “It takes a lot of planning. As the construction managers, we do the planning up front and coordinate everything in a safe manner to meet deadlines.

Over the summer, the former JMS building will be closed as crews start the renovation process for Wallace Elementary and the Johnston Early Learning Academy. All JMS offices will be housed in the athletic area of their new building throughout the summer until construction is completed in the front. The JHS to JMS renovation has a budget of $4.2 million and is paid for through sales tax dollars and the PPEL fund.