HUDSON — The new middle school could feature more natural lighting, cubby holes that can be moved around instead of stationary rows of lockers and soft furnishings, as well as traditional desks.

And what about garage doors in classrooms to expand and contract space when needed?

These are a few of the ideas floated for the new $44 million Hudson Middle School, set to break ground this fall, at a community forum on Tuesday evening at the current Hudson Middle School. The current middle school was built in 1927.

"These are not just drawings where we said ‘Oh, that would be cool to have,’" said Superintendent Phil Herman. "The teachers and staff visited schools to see how design components were used, we talked about what we wanted to see.

"All the way, GPD Group was recording the information. We had the opportunity to sit down with teachers at other schools to see how things worked, and what they liked. Our teachers had the opportunity to ask these questions about how they feel and what works best."

The 176,000-square-foot building will serve as the new educational home for the district’s sixth through eighth grades. Funding for the school will come from an $81.5 million, 4.97-mill bond issue approved by voters in November 2017.

Safety was a key concern when working on a design for the new middle school, Herman said, and not just from outside threats. Bullying in schools, he said, remains a big concern.

"When you have incidents of bullying, where do they usually occur?" Herman said. "It happens in stairwells, it happens in hallways, away from eyes. The New Albany (school district) told us that the open space means there are 12 to 14 eyes on just about anywhere in the building."

Security cameras also will be installed in the school, Herman said. While not a complete prevention measure or deterrent, "they are a helpful tool."

John Peterson, project manager at GPD Group, said the concept of the garage door-like openings for the classrooms would open into a shared community space.

"That’s the goal, to have as many of the classrooms as possible having a garage door," Peterson said.

Another idea is to provide as much flexibility with the space as possible, Peterson said. For example, students could place their items in cubby holes that can be moved around in classrooms.

Dr. Kimberly Cockley, Hudson Middle School principal, said that in the New Albany School District, the cubby holes were moved to create a wall that extended out of the classrooms into a common area.

"There aren’t any problems with cubbies because of visibility," Cockley said. "Long corridors with lockers are not an efficient use of space."

Parent Christine Callahan said she was concerned about accessibility in areas like the auditorium. She has a fifth-grade son who uses a wheelchair and a child in preschool, both of whom are students in the district. Callahan said she recently went to another auditorium in a nearby district that had just renovated its theater facilities.

"It was disappointing," she said. Accessible seating at this auditorium was not reachable through the main entry, and spots reserved for those with wheelchairs separated them from other family members. The wheelchair spot also had poor visibility.

Herman said that the district’s officials are still meeting with students, parents and community members alike on the draft proposal. He added that the school has already incorporated ideas from the district’s students.

"We are just really excited," Cockley said. "From a staff perspective, we are doing some great things."

The bond issue passed in November 2017 will also fund renovations in the district’s other school buildings.

Evamere Elementary School will be downsized and turned into the district’s new central office. McDowell will be renovated and converted for the district’s pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. Ellsworth Hill will be expanded on the south side of the building and will become the school for the Hudson district’s first- and second-graders, and East Woods school will house the district’s third- through fifth-graders.

Hudson High School renovations include upgrades to the media center and utilities.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??