It sounds simple: Inviting a seasoned professional into your school spaces to assess where you are and talk about opportunities. Yet the impact can be so significant.
Principal Ron Meyers will always remember giving David Leapaldt a tour of his school. “I was embarrassed to even show him around,” said Meyers, principal of Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque, Iowa.
The building challenges had mounted over time and left the school’s staff and students with issues that extended well beyond the surface. The facility that he imagined felt like a far-off dream. “We were in pretty dire straits,” he said.
Meyers became more uncomfortable as the two men walked into the school’s dimly lit basement. Then, Leapaldt shared something that Meyers will always remember: ‘You’d have to really look around to find light fixtures as poor as these.’
They both chuckled.
“He saw what we couldn’t see,” Meyers said David, a facility planner and architect with IIW. “He saw the possibility and shared how even simple changes could make a difference.”
NEW ENERGY, CONFIDENCE
That initial tour ignited a thoughtful planning process that brought together administration, teachers and other staff within Wahlert to renovate the high school, originally built in 1957. “I was impressed by the school’s bones,” Leapaldt said. “I could see the uniqueness of the building, its steel frame, and high floor to floor height. I saw the opportunity to make it a place that augmented learning and where staff and students would be proud to invite people in.”
Sharing those opportunities brought energy and confidence to the building project.
Following the tour, Leapaldt conducted a comprehensive facility assessment and worked alongside school leaders to prioritize their goals. They shaped new spaces that would match the school’s reputation for academic excellence.
Going into the project, school leaders expected that they would need to close off an entire wing of the school because of a lack of accessibility. There simply was not enough time for students to get there during passing time.
After spending some time reviewing the building plans, Leapaldt suggested adding a central staircase to improve accessibility. “It really changed the traffic pattern,” Meyers said. “Now we can go any direction on any floor. Now students can use the restroom, socialize and get drinks between classes.”
And it all started with what felt like a simple tour.