Cañon City Middle School Addition and Renovation

  • area / size 76,350 sqft
  • Completed 2021
  • RTA Architects completed the renovation and addition for Cañon City Middle School in Cañon City, Colorado.

    In 1925 Cañon City High School opened its doors to serve as home to the Cañon City Tigers. Over its 96-year history, the school has seen many changes, both in the student body it serves and to the school building itself. After Cañon City High School was built in the 1960s, the school was renamed Cañon City Middle School and began serving middle school students and has been renovated numerous times in the decades since.

    In 2018, Cañon City Schools began the planning process and applied for a BEST Grant through the Colorado Department of Education. Significant issues that needed to be addressed included bathrooms that were only accessible to students via the existing undersized stairwells located too close together, an elevator that wasn’t mechanically reliable, and an outdated educational environment.

    RTA Architects facilitated a highly collaborative process with the project’s Design Advisory Group, District leadership, and the Cañon City community to develop an addition and renovation design that centered upon maintaining the character of the historic school building while implementing 21st Century education learning environments.

    The central site feature of the new middle school campus is the courtyard which connects the existing gymnasium, the 1925 historic high school, and the new addition. This three-sided courtyard is visible from all three sides of the courtyard and creates a comfortable, safe, and easily-supervised outdoor multi-purpose space.

    Middle school grades are now clustered in groups of four academic classrooms, one science room, one shared maker space, and two break out spaces. The maker space and varying sizes of break out spaces promote flexible learning environments that support classrooms and enhance grade-based learning communities.

    The new Library location is in the lower level of the historic building, and the new space celebrates the historic building and takes full advantage of an abundance of north light in the double-height volume. It incorporates new building systems within the historic shell and provides a dynamic learning space.

    The Student Commons is designed to operate in dual capacity as a commons/cafeteria as well as an auditorium for performances with retractable bleacher seating. As the “heart” of the school, it also has a direct connection to the courtyard so that both spaces can be used on good weather days for outdoor learning opportunities.

    An on-site Community Health Center, operated through a partnership between Valley-Wide Health Systems and Solvista Health, was also a key feature of the design. The Health Center serves students, staff, and the local community with three exam rooms, office and staff workspaces, separate IT space, and a dedicated entry and waiting area.

    Sustainable design was also a priority of the design. The project recently achieved LEED Silver certification due to improved environmental responsibility, healthier and more productive learning spaces for students, energy efficiency, and improved life cycle and operations costs.

    Materials were carefully selected to honor the 96-year historic high school building and its importance to the Cañon City community. The large opening in the historic building created from the removal of the 1925 auditorium and gymnasium is infilled with glass to showcase the science lab and library functions. Flooring from the original gymnasium has been reused and showcased, and the footprint of the demolished portion of the 1925 building has been reflected in the surface materials of the courtyard to pay homage to the past while looking into the future.

    Design: RTA Architects
    Photography: David Lauer Photography