flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

An elementary school in Canada for intellectually challenged kids completes a three-year-long facelift

K-12 Schools

An elementary school in Canada for intellectually challenged kids completes a three-year-long facelift

Yaldei School adds classrooms and programming as its enrollment has expanded.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | February 11, 2023
The Yaldei School in Montreal recently completed renovations on its three floors.
The Yaldei School in Montreal recently completed renovations on its three floors for education and therapy of children. Images: Courtesy of Yaldei School

Last fall, the Yaldei School in Montreal, Quebec, which provides education and therapy to children ages 4 through 16 with intellectual disabilities, completed a $4.5 million renovation of the three-story former parochial school that it had moved into in 2016. The goal of this project, by the firm Stendel + Reich Architecture, was to create spaces that relieve students’ anxiety and, according to the school, make things fun.

“As a true all-under-one-roof facility, at Yaldei a child can receive every support [he or she needs], and benefit from the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team,” the school stated through a spokesperson. “As such, we are constantly seeking to improve and expand our range of services and therapies modalities, with the aim of reaching every child, and giving each one the best change at success.”

To achieve this, Cliff Stendel, associate principal at Stendel + Reich, studied extensively about the students’ different disabilities, and drew knowledge as well from his firm’s previous experience designing Alzheimer’s facilities.

For example, Alzheimer’s patients often have trouble navigating turns in corridors. So Stendel redesigned Yaldei with oval corridors where, if students turn the wrong way, they just follow the corridor around to where they started.

The school's front entry
The school's front entry has been made more accessible and colorful.

School uses light as therapy

Stendel also realized, through observation, that students with learning disabilities get distracted easily. To address this, the remodeling of therapy rooms excluded direct windows to the outside; instead, glass walls face the corridor, and on the other side of the corridor are windows that let in sunlight.

Lighting is key to this project. Stendel installed thin light strips in various designs to minimize the effect of lighting on hypersensitive children. So-called RGB lights (for red, green, and blue) also contribute to the children’s therapy, and lend a sense of playfulness to the environment.

The school is roughly 40,000 sf, and was remodeled in phases:

• In 2018, renovation of 7,505 sf on the third floor, which is mostly classrooms for older students, was started, as was 335 sf of washroom space and a 1,475-sf administration area. Floors and ceilings were replaced, new lighting and storage installed, and the rooms were freshly painted. The third-floor reno was completed last fall, and included the addition of eight classrooms, a revamped MEP/HVAC system, an accessible bathroom, a kitchenette in each classroom, and a teacher resource room and library;

• In 2019, the 12,355-sf second floor received a full renovation that included moving separate therapy rooms there, and converting a portion of this space to an early intervention area;

• In 2020, 6,410 sf of main classroom space were renovated, as were 6,425 of the first floor’s 10,580 total square footage.

This renovation project has allowed Yaldei School to grow. In the past few years, its enrollment has increased by 20 percent to 110. (The school has 165 registered students.) The school also collaborates with more than 25 schools in Montreal to provide services to a total of 250 intellectually challenged children per year.

A playful design enlivens the school's' interior
Relieving student anxiety with playful design was a renovation imperative.

As a result of its renovations, Yaldei Shcool recently initiated an early-intervention group for infants with multiple handicaps and intense physical needs; and added an Art and Social Skills group for girls with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. These weekly groups help children learn social skills and use art to relieve stress.

Yaldei’s future plans call for adapting more rooms into fully equipped classrooms to meet anticipated enrollment increases.

Related Stories

K-12 Schools | Feb 29, 2024

Average age of U.S. school buildings is just under 50 years

The average age of a main instructional school building in the United States is 49 years, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). About 38% of schools were built before 1970. Roughly half of the schools surveyed have undergone a major building renovation or addition.

Construction Costs | Feb 22, 2024

K-12 school construction costs for 2024

Data from Gordian breaks down the average cost per square foot for four different types of K-12 school buildings (elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, and vocational schools) across 10 U.S. cities.

K-12 Schools | Feb 13, 2024

K-12 school design trends for 2024: health, wellness, net zero energy 

K-12 school sector experts are seeing “healthiness” for schools expand beyond air quality or the ease of cleaning interior surfaces. In this post-Covid era, “healthy” and “wellness” are intersecting expectations that, for many school districts, encompass the physical and mental wellbeing of students and teachers, greater access to outdoor spaces for play and learning, and the school’s connection to its community as a hub and resource.

K-12 Schools | Jan 25, 2024

Video: Research-based design for K-12 schools

Two experts from national architecture firm PBK discuss how behavioral research is benefiting the design of K-12 schools in Texas, Florida, and other states. Dan Boggio, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, Founder & Executive Chair, PBK, and Melissa Turnbaugh, AIA, NCARB, Partner & National Education & Innovation Leader, PBK, speak with Robert Cassidy, Executive Editor, Building Design+Construction.

K-12 Schools | Jan 8, 2024

Video: Learn how DLR Group converted two big-box stores into an early education center

Learn how the North Kansas City (Mo.) School District and DLR Group adapted two big-box stores into a 115,000-sf early education center offering services for children with special needs. 

Designers | Jan 3, 2024

Designing better built environments for a neurodiverse world

For most of human history, design has mostly considered “typical users” who are fully able-bodied without clinical or emotional disabilities. The problem with this approach is that it offers a limited perspective on how space can positively or negatively influence someone based on their physical, mental, and sensory abilities.

Education Facilities | Nov 9, 2023

Oakland schools’ central kitchen cooks up lessons along with 30,000 meals daily

CAW Architects recently completed a facility for the Oakland, Calif., school district that feeds students and teaches them how to grow, harvest, and cook produce grown onsite. The production kitchen at the Unified School District Central Kitchen, Instructional Farm, and Education Center, (“The Center”) prepares and distributes about 30,000 meals a day for district schools lacking their own kitchens.

Products and Materials | Oct 31, 2023

Top building products for October 2023

BD+C Editors break down 15 of the top building products this month, from structural round timber to air handling units.

Giants 400 | Oct 30, 2023

Top 170 K-12 School Architecture Firms for 2023

PBK Architects, Huckabee, DLR Group, VLK Architects, and Stantec top BD+C's ranking of the nation's largest K-12 school building architecture and architecture/engineering (AE) firms for 2023, as reported in Building Design+Construction's 2023 Giants 400 Report.

Giants 400 | Oct 30, 2023

Top 100 K-12 School Construction Firms for 2023

CORE Construction, Gilbane, Balfour Beatty, Skanska USA, and Adolfson & Peterson top BD+C's ranking of the nation's largest K-12 school building contractors and construction management (CM) firms for 2023, as reported in Building Design+Construction's 2023 Giants 400 Report.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

K-12 Schools

Average age of U.S. school buildings is just under 50 years

The average age of a main instructional school building in the United States is 49 years, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). About 38% of schools were built before 1970. Roughly half of the schools surveyed have undergone a major building renovation or addition.




K-12 Schools

K-12 school design trends for 2024: health, wellness, net zero energy 

K-12 school sector experts are seeing “healthiness” for schools expand beyond air quality or the ease of cleaning interior surfaces. In this post-Covid era, “healthy” and “wellness” are intersecting expectations that, for many school districts, encompass the physical and mental wellbeing of students and teachers, greater access to outdoor spaces for play and learning, and the school’s connection to its community as a hub and resource.

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021