WLC Project Feature: Dr. Ralph H. Baker 21st Century Learning Center
Excitement filled the air as parents, staff, and students gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Dr. Ralph H. Baker 21st Century Learning Center in Victorville, California. Embracing an innovative open-concept classroom design and community-based learning environment, students will have the opportunity to collaborate and grow within this flexible facility.
WLC President and Principal Architect Jim DiCamillo shared his thoughts with the audience about this unique approach to learning.
"This is the day that we live for as an architect. My staff knows I've been doing this for almost 40 years - and it never ever gets old seeing kids walk into a school. For the parents and the kids here who have yet to see your new school - you're in for a real treat. The first sketch - the first line I put on paper for this school - was almost exactly four years ago to the day. That's how long and how many people are involved in making it from nothing on paper to a built environment."
"You're walking into one of the most innovative educational environments in California, and it will stay that way with the leadership of your Principal and the teachers who will invest in your children. I think you'll be amazed at what you will see. You're looking at almost 70,000 square feet of educational environments. For those that can do the math, that's almost two acres under one roof, on a 12 acre piece of property - all indoors, all air conditioned, and all secured.
Having been in the District for almost a quarter century, every single step of the way has been done in connection with Dale Etter, your Director of Facilities. Congratulations on another great project! Welcome to your new school."
Principal Jodi McEachron shared more insight on choosing the name for this innovative school.
"Our school is named after somebody very, very special - Dr. Ralph Baker. This journey would not be possible if he didn't start what he did so many years ago in this District. He had a passion for school and site autonomy and he had a passion for innovation and for kids. So we wouldn't be on this journey if it wasn't for him."
Superintendent Jan Gonzales also added, "Dr. Baker is the epitome of honesty, integrity, and putting students first. And I'm extremely proud to have worked with him during his career. All of these examples explain why it's a natural fit to name this site after an individual who built the foundation of this District."
Parent and Community Member Hakeem Majied, Sr. shared his view on the collaborative nature of the planning process.
"It takes every stakeholder, the community, the teachers, the parents, and the kids to come up with something like this. I'm very happy and excited. And from what I see, everything is just completely new. My daughter absolutely loves it."
"I felt like a colleague, I felt like a peer. You know, each stakeholder has a different piece. I'm a parent, but I'm also a homeowner. I can't afford to get up and leave and move - so why can't I have a premier school for my kids to go to where I bought my house? So we have to start coming together. And that's what this Board does - and that's what Jan Gonzalez does every day. She wants to make sure that everybody comes together so she could hear all forms of info and feedback."
Principal Jodi McEachron also shared how the school's architecture has impacted the school's entire approach education.
"None of this would be possible without the design. There are so many things that you do in traditional education that you see as the only way possible. And when you start to think outside the box and start to think about new ideas, there's always the architecture that stops your ideas. It holds you in. It doesn't allow you to do new things because you have these walls that you have to exist within. So you have a much tougher job to do."
"But right now - this entire building is built for what we want it to be. We're not trying to take something and turn it into what we want it to be - it is what we want it to be. The design is the trigger that makes everything happen. So to the WLC Design Team, I would just like to say thank you! We're going to be doing remarkable and revolutionary things for kids - and it could not happen if you hadn't put in the time and energy and let your creativity soar. Thank you very much from me and my staff. We appreciate you."
Congratulations to the students, staff, Victor Elementary School District, and the entire Victorville community on the grand opening of the Dr. Ralph H. Baker 21st Century Learning Center!