The school has a state-of-the-art geothermal well for cooling and heating that will pay for itself in five years and lead to millions of dollars in savings over the lifetime of the building.
The air circulation system ensures that the air inside is purer than the air outside, Hoskens said. That is in part why windows don't open - so the building's clean air won't be let out.
The choice of building materials also was environmentally motivated: Most are from local sources, such as stones used in the facade, and tons of recycled materials were used.
The architecture is designed to reflect the river, prairie, farmlands, wetlands and woodlands that surround Watertown. Blue tile, for example, weaves through the cafeteria and administration in imitation of the Crow River.
The result is a warm, bright building with numerous splashes of color on two floors. The grades are also separated into pods, allowing students of the same grade to interact while reducing noise in the building.
"We've had kids say it is so fun to be here, it's so bright," said Nancy Schrupp, a paraprofessional at the school. "We were just happy to have any new space. But it's more than met our expectations."
Another innovative and security-conscious design can be found in the lockers used by students. They have no doors, which makes it easy to inspect them and reduce clutter. The bathrooms also have no doors. Instead, large walk-in entrances are used similar to those found at sports arenas.
"They're such common-sense measures," said Karsten Anderson, the superintendent of the Watertown-Mayer School District. "We would probably implement these measures with any new structure. We just happened to build the elementary school."
After several months of living in the new space, students and staff said they have found their new home is marvelous.
"It's colorful," said Adam Heilman, a third-grader. "I like the lunchroom because it has big windows and I can look out at cars and birds and stuff."
Everyone seems to enjoy the abundant sunlight that comes into the building, a byproduct of making sure the outside is visible from 90 percent of the interior space. In contrast, the prior elementary school was built in 1911 and had a dark interior.
"I really like this layout. I like the big windows," said Bonita Heilman, Adam's mother. "The security is much better than at the other building. We know someone can always see the kids. It takes a village even inside the school."