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Owner Westerville City School District
Architect Triad Architects
Lead Engineers Osborn Engineering
Designer Blue Cat Studios - Graphic Artist and Muralist

Bringing education home to the Village of Minerva Park

Westerville City School District is the eleventh largest school district in Ohio, serving Westerville, Minerva Park, Blendon Township, Genoa Township, portions of Columbus and other nearby rural areas. Often mistakenly thought to serve only the City of Westerville, the district’s boundaries extend into the southern region of Delaware county with roughly 6,700 students residing south of Westerville proper.

As the southern region has continued to grow, many students were required to spend up to an hour commuting to and from school each day. To help improve the quality of life for families and better serve students south of Westerville proper, Westerville City School District began planning for new school campuses while right-sizing the enrollments of the middle schools across the district.
 First came the construction of a new elementary school, Minerva France Elementary School, which opened in 2022. Soon after, construction of the new Minerva Park Middle School began, which is when Pepper got involved.

Minerva Park Middle School is in the heart of the Village of Minerva Park, a small community surrounded by the city of Columbus. The new school serves roughly 800 students in the southern portion of the district. Containing 124,000 square feet of space, it features a unique design that supports modern-day learning while promoting a culture of peace and harmony.

A design of unity and connection

It was important for Westerville to involve students and staff in the design from the very beginning. Small group meetings were held to allow many voices and visions to influence the design and be reflected in the initial concepts. When exploring themes with the district, a common thread emerged: the desire for a space that promoted peace and harmony amongst a world full of turmoil. This meant creating a design that prioritized safety and inclusivity – a place of unity where students, staff and the community could connect. The design team, Triad Architects, went to work weaving this theme throughout the entire building from the design of the exterior to intricate art installations inside the school. Lauren Voiers, Interior Designer for Triad Architects and Creator and Founder of Blue Cat Studios, had a unique role in the process as a lead designer and a contracted artist painting 11 intricate murals and wayfinding elements for the new school.

Some of the other essential design features identified through staff input included having plenty of storage space in classrooms, incorporating project-based learning and breakout areas and providing customized classrooms to support the special education curriculum. For the students, vibrant colors and natural light were at the top of their wish list. 

The design and construction earn extra credit

While the school in its entirety receives high grades, there are a few special features that are worthy of extra credit.

Before the 2023-2024 school year began, the district held a summer picnic open to all community members so they could visit the new middle school and celebrate its long-anticipated opening. More than 1,000 people participated, laying a great foundation for an ongoing connection between students, staff, the community and partners that will continue through the school’s inaugural year and beyond.

During the opening ceremony, school officials reinforced the importance behind the school’s acronym PROWL (perform our best, respect ourselves and school community, own it, withstand our challenges, and learn with curiosity). By bringing learning home to the Village of Minerva Park, the Panthers are PROWLing their way to a very bright 2024.