IUSD at 40: Deerfield Elementary reflected the times with an open-classroom layout

When Deerfield Elementary opened in 1976, the school was one of many to embrace the progressive educational philosophies of the era, utilizing an open-classroom layout free of interior walls. Inside, larger spaces were shared by three classes in an effort to promote more collaborative methods of teaching and learning.

But the open-classroom concept gradually fell out of favor in education circles, as teachers found it difficult to reign in distractions and control noise levels. Much to the chagrin of Pink Floyd fans, walls returned to many schools.

Deerfield, however, held onto its no-wall, retro charm for a while longer. (That’s probably the nicest way to put it.) Then, in 2010, the high-performing school was targeted for a major modernization and renovation effort, one that would close down the campus for 14 months and cost around $13 million.

Cavernous open spaces were reconfigured into modern classrooms that ranged from 900 to 960 square feet, and two new buildings were added to house additional classrooms and administrative offices. Both structures featured brick exteriors that matched the rest of the site. Crews even built a new front façade.

As the work was performed, students were diverted to nearby El Camino Real Elementary, which had been shuttered a few years earlier. Finally, in the fall of 2011, students and staff returned to the new and improved Deerfield.

Walls or no walls, Deerfield has boasted a pretty impressive academic record since its bicentennial opening. Along with being named a California Distinguished School in 2006 and 2012, it earned the nation’s highest honor as a Blue Ribbon School in 2007.

Do you have an old photo of the Irvine Unified School District you’d like to share? Send it to ianhanigan@iusd.org, along with some basic caption information, including names, dates and locations. We may publish it on the NewsFlash as part of our IUSD at 40 project. Images from IUSD’s first four decades will be posted every Thursday.