Minnesota has long been a leader in public education with many school districts earning top marks compared to other districts across the United States. Northfield Public Schools, located less than an hour from Minneapolis–Saint Paul, is no exception and ranks as one of the state’s best.
The community recently decided it wanted to replace Greenvale Park Elementary, a school built in the early 1970s, with a more modern structure better suited to serving the needs of today’s teachers and students. At the same time, the school district decided to consolidate its early childhood program since the licensed daycare, early childhood family education, early childhood special education, and preschool buildings were dispersed across multiple sites.
“We wanted to provide a world-class early childhood education experience in one facility to benefit our families and the entire community,” says Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Matt Hillmann. “We knew we could serve the community better with everything under one roof.”
The district hired Minneapolis-based Knutson Construction, which specializes in both education and health care facilities, to build the new school and the community buildings. All was going well, but then COVID-19 struck when construction was only half-finished and the inability to visit the site threatened its completion.
Unexpected Ways to Collaborate and Share
Thanks to Matterport, Northfield Public Schools was able to collaborate with Knutson to complete the job during the pandemic and plans to use it to improve review processes on future projects as well.
Knutson Construction used Matterport Pro2 cameras to continuously capture the project’s progress so that Northfield’s stakeholders could remotely monitor job sites in 3D anytime from anywhere. “Matterport allowed us to share progress with board members, our leadership team, and others as the building was constructed,” says Hillmann. “Many people were unable to tour the site because of the pandemic but needed to see what was happening. The feedback was terrific.”
Since Knutson recaptured all 90,000 square feet of the facility once construction finished, Northfield plans to use the scans to showcase the new buildings to the broader community.
We haven’t been able to have a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony or bring our community members through the school,” Hillmann says, “but the Matterport scan will allow us to have a virtual open house and bring the new school safely into people’s living rooms so they can experience it without risk of illness.
The district also plans to share the Matterport scans with local law enforcement and emergency personnel. That way, they’ll know what the buildings look like in advance in case they need to enter a building during an emergency, which is critical, for example, if halls are filled with smoke.
A Time Capsule with X-Ray Vision
Because scans of buildings were done throughout construction, Hillmann expects the Matterport scans to come in handy even after the facility is fully operational. “The ability to see what is inside the walls is incredibly helpful,” Hillmann says. His teams will know exactly where water pipes, electrical lines, and other elements are. They’ll also know whether or not they can drill a hole into a wall without creating a problem.
In addition, heating system leaks and plumbing problems will be easier to find. “I’m looking forward to having our custodians and maintenance staff use Matterport,” says Northfield Public Schools Director of Buildings and Grounds Jim Kulseth. “Having the flexibility to see what’s inside walls will help us prevent problems or at least address them sooner and minimize damage.”
The ability to view the facility’s construction over time won’t just be useful for maintenance teams. It also is valuable to the community, acting as a 3D yearbook for the building. “The Matterport scan provides a wonderful visual record for now and the future to see how the school might continue to evolve over the years to address changing needs.”
Recruiting Students and Staff
Matterport will help Northfield remotely showcase its schools even after the pandemic ends. Prospective employees from outside the area will be able to see where they’ll be working without having to travel long distances. “We can use the Matterport scan as a recruitment tool to show off the new facilities and get prospective employees excited,” Hillmann says.
Families considering a move to the area can benefit in precisely the same way. They’ll be able to virtually tour their children’s next school just as Northfield’s parents did during the coronavirus pandemic. “We see the Matterport scan as an effective, flexible way to promote our school district and give prospective families an experience that feels almost as real as being there,” Hillmann says.
ABOUT NORTHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Northfield Public Schools serves Northfield, Minnesota, a city of around 20,000 people less than an hour south of Minneapolis–Saint Paul. Ranked the thirteenth-best school district in the state, it serves the community with three elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and an alternative high school. It also sponsors a number of charter schools.
Create accurate 3D scans of construction projects to monitor progress during the pandemic and give virtual tours to the community.
Matterport creates immersive 3D digital spaces that can be visited and explored remotely, anytime from anywhere.