When she heard that North Gresham Elementary School would be rebuilt as part of the voter-approved capital construction bond, Renée Alexander knew that she wanted to be involved in the construction of the new school.

As an architect for BBT Architects based in Bend, Renee has been involved with dozens of school construction projects across the West (around 150-200 in her entire career). The opportunity to lead this project stood out as North Gresham Elementary isn’t just another school, it’s where she discovered a love for education that propelled her into her future as an architect.

Renée attended North Gresham Elementary school from 1969 to 1972—back then she was Renée Kroupa.

“When I walked into the building for the first time after all of those years, I was hit with a rush of memories. I could remember how to get to all of my old classrooms and could still picture sitting next to my classmates with my teachers standing in the front of the room.”

BBT Architects, was one of 7 firms to apply for the contract and was chosen in January 2017 after an extensive bidding process.

As part of the design process, Renée and the rest of the design team has had dozens of conversations with members of the community about what they’re looking for in the new building. For a lot of the families that she talked with, the school serves as their community center—a place where their children are educated and fed. North Gresham Elementary is their home.

It was important to Renée that the design reflect the significance the building holds for the community.

The school’s symbol is the north star, so Renée worked to incorporate the night sky into the design. “It’s so much more than just painting a few stars on the walls. We’ve really made an effort to incorporate the imaginative pull of the stars and astronomy into the building.”

For example, the ceiling of the library and media center is painted to look like the night sky—to   spark the imaginations of teachers and students alike.

“When the project is completed, it’s going to be such an emotional experience to show the community what we’ve built for them,” says Renee. “It’s been the honor of my career to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”