In late March, Walsh School District in rural Colorado started construction on a 60,000-sf school that, when completed in the spring of 2024, will teach students in grades Pre-K through 12 under one roof.
In Georgia, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) is wrapping up construction on a 410,000-sf K-12 multi-school project in Garden City, near Savannah, that will enroll about 2,400 students.
While corralling elementary, middle, and high school students in one building isn’t unheard of, it’s still more the exception than the rule, and controversial as news about bullying in schools has become more frequent. “If anything, more schools are separating grade levels,” observes Chris Greer, Henderson Engineers’ K-12 Education Practice Director.
A few years ago, JCJ Architecture designed a one-building K-12 school for a district in Rochester, N.Y. But, says Jim LaPosta, the firm’s Chief Architectural Officer, the prevailing single-building model remains K-8.
However, that could be changing. The general contractor Barton Malow has been working with the Kresge Foundation and the University of Michigan to build PK-16 schools in Detroit. (At least one is under construction, says Mike Stobak, the firm’s Vice President of its K-12 Group.)
The Savannah K-12 school is part of a larger trend toward school building consolidation, in Georgia and other states, asserts David Hamilton, Vice President and Regional Manager for Charles Perry Partners, the general contractor on the Garden City project, whose “all-in” cost is $135 million, according to Dr. Slade Helmly, SCCPSS’s project manager.
Phase 1 of this project, which will be completed this summer, includes two gyms, two cafeterias, and a common kitchen. The school will feature a digital media lab, career and technical education programs for aviation, logistics, and business, a two-story, 750-seat auditorium, and a parking lot with at least 660 spaces. Phase 2 went out for bid in May, says Helmly, and encompasses a fieldhouse and stadium, and campus police department. (The old police station had been on this site, as was Gross High School, both of which were demolished.)
A 50-kW solar array on the new building’s roof will supply one-third of the school’s energy needs.
Addressing security concerns in single-building K-12 schools
Vaughn Dierks, a Partner with Wold Architects & Engineers, which is the Project Architect on the Walsh School District’s PreK-12 school, says that having students of all grades in one building isn’t that big of a deal for this mountain community, where “the kids ride the same bus together, and the older kids look after the younger ones.”
Hamilton thinks that SCCPSS and LS3P Associates—which designed the Garden City school and hired the engineers and contractor for the building team—did a good job separating the lower and upper grades via glass partitions and access-control doors.
April Mundy and Lisa Pinyan, LS3P’s Project Architect and Senior Project Manager/Interior Designer, tell BD+C that their firm designed this campus as three buildings—a primary, middle, and high school—that “share a few common walls.” Administration and student services are strategically located in multiple locations throughout the building, which helps to delineate zones, supervision, and security.
The idea behind the single-building K-12 school, they explain, is rooted in three basic tenets:
• Improving the educational experience by allowing the administration to adjust classroom grade assignments as enrollment ebbs and flows each year. This environment should also enhance professional development and cross collaboration, and provide more varied learning to students;
• Sharing common core programs and spaces that include specialized arts and performance venues, career education, athletics, and food services; and
• Improving security and operations with centralized systems, so infrastructure can be more efficient by serving a larger student population. Each phase of the building’s design followed Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.
Mundy and Pinyan add that by having the grades together, “we’re able to create a hub and city center for local families to drop off and pick up their children. The goal is for this school to be a catalyst to build a strong community.”
Will single-building K-12 schools become a niche?
This is SCCPSS’s largest project to date, as well as the largest school project undertaken by Charles Perry Partners. “There’s a huge difference between building a $30 million K-8 school and a $100 million K-12 school,” says Hamilton. “It’s a different level of construction.” He’s a big believer in superintendents owning their areas of responsibility, so on this project, his firm brought on board assistant supers with specialties in MEP, exteriors, and so forth. “It was like building a mini company.”
Hamilton says his firm hopes to parlay the Georgia K-12 multi-school building into more multi-school business. “We are definitely showcasing this project, because people want to work with builders that have been there, and have the T-shirt.”
K-12 Schools | Mar 29, 2022
A graceful design opens Pennsylvania’s Springfield High School to its community
Multifunctional spaces enhance student collaboration.
K-12 Schools | Mar 8, 2022
Design delivers new media messages for schools
Media centers are no longer physically confined to one room.
Resiliency | Feb 15, 2022
Design strategies for resilient buildings
LEO A DALY's National Director of Engineering Kim Cowman takes a building-level look at resilient design.
Coronavirus | Jan 20, 2022
Advances and challenges in improving indoor air quality in commercial buildings
Michael Dreidger, CEO of IAQ tech startup Airsset speaks with BD+C's John Caulfield about how building owners and property managers can improve their buildings' air quality.
K-12 Schools | Jan 4, 2022
Forest Edge Elementary School becomes the largest net zero verified education project in the U.S.
Bray Architects designed the project.
K-12 Schools | Dec 27, 2021
A ‘new urbanist’ middle school takes shape in Austin
Design-build delivery, still rare for Texas school construction, fit expeditiously for this project.
K-12 Schools | Dec 10, 2021
Trends in K-12 school design, with Dan Boggio and Melissa Turnbaugh of PBK
Dan Boggio and Melissa Turnbaugh of PBK, the largest K-12 design firm in the U.S., discuss the favorable market conditions and the latest trends in K-12 school design with BD+C's Rob Cassidy.
Giants 400 | Nov 18, 2021
2021 K-12 School Sector Giants: Top architecture, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S. K-12 school facilities sector
PBK, Gilbane, AECOM, and DLR Group head BD+C's rankings of the nation's largest K-12 school facilities sector architecture, engineering, and construction firms, as reported in the 2021 Giants 400 Report.
K-12 Schools | Nov 16, 2021
Massachusetts’ first net-positive energy public school opens
Part of the town of Westborough’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2035.
K-12 Schools | Nov 14, 2021
New Blackwater Community School completed for Gila River Indian Community, in Arizona
Construction on the new Blackwater Community School, a two-story structure on the Gila River Indian Community, located southeast of Phoenix, Arizona, was completed on August 31, 2021.