Now near the tail end of the Pine River-Backus School District bond referendum discussion to improve facilities, students had an opportunity to delve into the design process Tuesday, April 30.

Four stations were set up in the Pine River-Backus School media center where 15 students from band and choir, career and technical classes, and other interests were invited to interact with architects from Kodet Architectural Group, give feedback and even design possible features for the project.

One station featured a VR headset so students could tour the project design in 3D. One table focused on creating concepts for possible student-built and -designed features for the proposed expansion. One table focused on design specifications for the layout of the Career and Technical Education space for optimal use.

Two tables were combined into a station where students were able to make suggestions for design additions and changes to the proposed additions. Here, students were also able to interact with a scale model of the school building where they could move walls around to see the possible layouts of the expansion.

Students were so engaged in the hour-long discussion they didn't hear the bell until architects asked if they needed to go. Some students were given permission to stay longer to give additional feedback on the designs.

"We had a wonderful set today," said Mike Schellin, principal architect at Kodet. "The four groups we went through, some of the common themes were display cases, benches and student hangout spaces, a variety of benches and tables. What we were hearing is they didn't just want something that was just there. They wanted to have some variety."

Students came up with ideas for curved benches, display glass, graphics and etched glass logos designed and created by students and other designs they could have a part in.

"They wanted to have the graphics department print banners and be involved with some of the things we are displaying as well as some of the display cases for athletics and the fine arts spaces," Schellin said. "A lot of ideas focused on the front lobby entrance piece. Most of them were really excited about being involved in either the shop class with CTE kids or the graphics labs and how they can continually have input."

Feedback from students and teacher Jeff Lindstrom resulted in new ideas for the Career and Technical Education space. Among those ideas were overhead doors that align in both shops, allowing a project to be hauled by vehicle through both shops, rather than requiring disassembly to be brought in and out. Students also suggested a possible mechanics bay area that could (if the school had the funding) include a lift for vehicle repairs.

"They were all great suggestions," said Mandi Tauferner, with Kodet. "I didn't see the lift coming."

David Greco, with Kodet, guided discussions of a student designed, fabricated and built feature that could be added to the expansion.

"Some of the student ideas were to create benching in the entrance and to create an entry installation that helps showcase the performance, choir and band," Greco said. "They prefer it be an interactive sequence and that showcases school spirit."

One popular discussion was about a canopy above the entry and ticket booths that could double as display space. Students at Greco's station consistently had an interest in representing the school in their design suggestions.

"One of the most surprising things was the school spirit and being able to showcase what they've achieved already," Greco said. "It's cool to display those awards and special things they accomplish while they are here."

The students involved in the discussion could be heard lamenting the fact that they will have graduated by the time the project could be completed. This input session, however, gave them an opportunity to be involved and leave a mark on the future design of the project.

The bond referendum vote to improve school facilities will take place Tuesday, May 14.