Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Charter School Intends Rounded Education to Start in Library Dome; Emphasis on the Library Backs the Curriculum, the Principal Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Charter School Intends Rounded Education to Start in Library Dome; Emphasis on the Library Backs the Curriculum, the Principal Says

Article excerpt

Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

PALATKA - By Tuesday afternoon, drivers could see it even before rounding the bend.

Crop circles? Circus tents? Government research project?

None of the above. Just an experiment in architecture by Putnam County's only charter school.

When complete, The Children's Reading Center Charter School will be one of just two schools in Florida to use the monolithic dome design.

The idea came after Principal Geri Melosh dreamed of a school with a library at its heart to complement the literacy-based curriculum.

The only solution was a round building.

So the charter school chose an unconventional design. The campus includes five domes that will open to students in the fall. The largest will have the library in the middle of the dome with classrooms surrounding it.

"Every child who walks out of a classroom walks into the media center, which makes it physically and educationally the heart and center of the school," Melosh said.

A second dome will house the cafeteria and kindergarten rooms. Three others will house the office, the science and technology lab, and the teacher lounge and materials room.

Workers inflated an airform Tuesday that shapes the dome and acts as its roof. Next, they will spray a urethane insulation foam and press a steel rebar frame inside it. Finally, they will use spray concrete to set the steel.

Dome buildings are renowned for their extreme resistance to hurricanes and tornadoes, 50 percent energy savings and lower construction cost.

But their appearance keeps many away.

The project's contractor himself wondered how the buildings would be received in Palatka, where residents pride themselves on their distance from metropolitan Jacksonville.

"I never thought Palatka would have anything like this," said Mark Williams, GMC Construction project manager.

In fact, he said, planners in the county's building department were open to the idea - enthusiastic, even.

The region is home to a few dome houses, including Howard Hansen's recently completed Northside dome and a planned geodesic dome complex on the Southside.

The aesthetics do take a little persuasion, dome fans admit. …

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