The Richmond Register

November 11, 2013

EKU unveils plan for $83 million education college, Model School complex


Register Staff Report

RICHMOND — Established more than a century ago to prepare teachers for Kentucky’s schools, Eastern Kentucky University wants to take what its officials call “another bold step” in teacher preparation.

To put its Model Laboratory School and College of education at the forefront in a new approach to teacher training, the university wants to erect an $83 million building that would put  Model at the center of the college.

Having the Model physically as well as conceptually at the college’s center is comparable to a medical college having a teaching hospital at its core, said Dr. Verna Lowe, dean of EKU’s College of Education.

The configuration would be part of the new “clinical” approach to be education and teacher training in the 21st century, she said.

Teachers in the profession would periodically return to the college and “model” school just as physicians periodically come to a teaching hospital to update their skills and approach, Lowe added.

EKU President Michael Benson, speaking recently to a group of approximately 150 faculty members, parents and community members at Model, unveiled architect’s renderings for the proposed complex.

“Our teacher education program has been at the heart of this university for over 100 years,” Benson said. “This new complex will allow us to prepare the next generation for the rapid changes in the field of education.”

The 279,000-square-foot complex would be constructed at the corner of the Eastern Bypass and Lancaster Avenue and be one of the first facilities drivers see as they approach the campus from the west.

“I expect this building to increase Eastern’s profile as a leader and standard bearer in education,” Benson said.

“This new facility for our Model Laboratory School is of vital importance for several reasons,” Benson continued. “First, our roots as an institution are in teacher education. Second, Model Lab is the last of its kind in the state and one of the few remaining in the country and continues to be an example of what can be accomplished. Third, the corner of Lancaster and the Bypass is the grand entrance to campus and this is our chance to make a very significant – and impactful – statement with this new facility. Lastly, Model has meant so much to many in our community, and we need to construct a new facility that will last for the next 50 years.”

“Education and teacher education are experiencing dramatic changes as we move to the clinical model,” Lowe said. “We need the facilities and the technology to promote critical thinking, problem solving and worldwide collaboration with all of our students.  

“EKU has a distinctive Pre-K through 12th grade lab school on site, ready to demonstrate this innovative model for teacher education,” Lowe continued.  “As the only laboratory school in the state that spans all grade levels, we are uniquely poised to offer service to not only our own students and the region, but to current teachers from across the state who will need to be ‘re-tooled’ with 21st century skills.”

While specific details for funding and construction have yet to take shape, Benson and Lowe emphasized that the commitment is in place. Having the architectural firm of Murphy Graves Trimble PLLC develop the first renderings allows them to present the plans to funding sources and stakeholders.

Members of the board of regents, including board chair Craig Turner have been briefed on the plans and view them favorably, said Dr. Kim Naugle associated dean of the education college.

The new facility would replace the Donovan Complex, constructed in 1961. Model students would continue to attend classes there while the new facility is constructed adjacent to the present site of the school. Also, the college of education is currently spread across several campus buildings.

Those at the presentation viewed a series of renderings and interacted with the architects, and reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Additional information can be found at model.eku.edu.

The College of Education-Model Lab complex is the second highest ranking state-funded capital construction priority for the university, behind only Phase 2 of the New Science Building, EKU officials said.