John Prunkl, who has one child that attends the elementary school, was one of those parents. According to the initial layout, 14 of the 69 classrooms will have no windows or access to natural light, he said.
"I'm not aware of too many schools that would want to go forward with not having natural light. It's possible those kids could be in classrooms for a number of years with no natural light," he said. "There are credible studies indicating several negative learning and developmental (mental and physical) consequences to the students from extended lack of access to direct sunlight. Fresh air exchange, mold prevention, heating and cooling operational impact are a few of the environmental concerns."
The classrooms are reserved for students in grades kindergarten through second, said Joel Aycock, of JEA Architects. JEA Architects designed the new school building. They have worked on renovations at two of the district's schools.
"We struggled with that (windows) early on. We wanted to give all classrooms windows. This was not haphazardly thrown together," Aycock said. "As architects, we're tasked with a lot of challenges and we have to juggle all of those and come up with the best solution we can come up with. Budget is one of those."
Portions of the building's interior were designed to compensate for the lack of windows, Aycock said.
"We've done some things that I think will help. All of the lower rooms will have 10-foot ceilings. We tried to create a sense of height to give some drama to the rooms," he said. "Also, on all of the quarter walls we put in high transom glass. It's indirect from the hallway. It provides a sense of outdoors and sunlight to try to overcome whatever negatives we'll have from being below grade."
The transom glass panes will run just below the ceiling at the corridor walls and will share/borrow some natural light between rooms and corridors and give a feeling of volume to areas that do not have exterior windows, according to East Side Elementary School's Web site.
The new elementary school is a three-level building that is in the shape of an "L." The nearly 150,000 square foot building will hold 69 classrooms, an elevator, a cafeteria that is two and a half times bigger than the school's current lunch hall, and a new media center that is three times the current size. No portables are planned for the new school.
A queuing loop that is tripled in size will also accompany the new facility, and parking for faculty and parents will be underneath the building, Aycock said.
Prunkl asked the designers to re-evaluate the blueprints to see if windows could be added. Aycock said he would look into the possibility of adding window wells.
"In my opinion, we have to find a way to get those classrooms in a position to have some natural light. We have such a beautiful area here in Atlanta and we can't let that go," Prunkl said.
Another cause for concern among parents is the location of the playground. As the proposed design stands, students will have to cross the bus lane to access the playground.
According to the school's Web site, students will walk along a dedicated sidewalk and will cross the new bus drive at a specific crossing area. In the past, students had to cross the automobile parking lot to access the playground.
Aycock said a smaller playground for grades kindergarten through second would be installed with direct access from the school.
The new East Side Elementary School building is scheduled to be complete in May 2011 with the demolition of the existing building over the summer of 2011. The new building will open for the 2011-12 school year.
For more information, go to www.cobbk12.org/eastside.