A 2016 District-wide Master Facility Plan (MFP) effort, facilitated by ARCON Associates, identified six phases of modernization additions and renovations spread over the District’s three schools. Modernization work at the middle school was originally scheduled as Phase 6 with planning to start in the years 2022 or beyond. The MFP was revisited in 2018 after highly successful modernization projects were complete at the Pre K – 2 and 3-5 buildings. Based on the success of these two projects, community members joined with staff and administration in overwhelming support to move the modernization work at the middle school forward to Phase 3.
One D69 parent clearly summarized the need to prioritize modernization at the middle school:
“A first grader perceives their learning environment in terms of their immediate surroundings – their teacher, their classroom, their locker, while a middle school student perceives their learning environment in social and emotional terms centered on how they view themselves – Do I feel safe? Am I proud of my school? Does my school support what I want to do? Do I have any control?”
Another parent and D69 teacher described the impact of appropriate spaces created during the first two phases (Pre K – 2 and 3-5 buildings):
“These modest modernizations of our old school have completely changed the culture of the buildings. Students are better behaved. Students are curious about what’s going on in class spaces that they can now see into. I cried when my daughter met me after school and couldn’t wait to show me her new music room. She used to hate music!”
Challenges with the existing middle school, identified during a discovery process included an understanding of the significant financial resources diverted annually from learning spaces to maintaining the original 1920’s building envelope, building systems, a deteriorating structural system, and the challenges of retrofitting a nearly 100 year old building with multiple additions, to a facility maximizing modern technology. The existing building’s spatial organization presented significant hurdles to modernizations that would result in a fully functioning and properly zoned middle school. After multiple options were thoroughly explored and vetted by a wide range of stakeholders, the preferred option of a replacement school on the same site emerged as the option that best supports the educational program, addresses the prioritized space needs, and provides the best long-term return on the District’s investment.
The design solution provides a new facility with proper public/private and noisy/quiet zoning. The heart of the building gathers active learning spaces of Art, STEM labs, a black box Drama lab, and the Library around a central, two-story learning commons lit by a large skylight from above. Each of these active spaces is “on display” from the learning commons through vast glass corridor facing walls. The leaning commons is organized with a small group “terraces” stepping from the first to second floor. Academic grade level spaces are grouped around a grade level living room, with each grade on its own floor in a three-story academic wing. Circulation eliminates any grade from passing through another grade while in route to specials, lunch, or physical education spaces. Overcrowding, travel times, and supervision issues with the existing building are resolved with clear, straightforward circulation planning.