New PreK-2 Elementary School
North Canton City Schools began their journey with a district-wide facilities review to establish a master plan for their future. With the goal of creating educational environments that “ignite a passion for learning,” phase one of the master plan determined construction of two new elementary schools to house the Primary and Intermediate students. The new Primary building consolidates the early childhood center (pre-kindergarten), kindergarten, first, and second grade levels from three of the District’s aging elementary buildings. This new school is designed to be adaptable to changing needs for different types of learning and collaboration. It is intended to meet the needs of all students, including those in the “middle,” while supporting multi-age learning.
The new Primary was constructed on the same site as the existing Mary L. Evans Early Childhood Center, which was taken down as part of this project. With the existing structure located on the southeast portion of the site, the remainder of the site was general field space, playgrounds, and a large parking lot. After numerous locations were studied, the building was ultimately positioned along Charlotte Street in the Northeast corner for various reasons and benefits noted below:
The overall building organization breaks down each grade level into smaller teams of four to six classrooms. Each team centers around an Extended Learning Area. The Extended Learning Area is intended to be a flexible space that facilities both “focused” and “active” learning while also providing general circulation to each classroom. Within each team there is also a large group room with direct access to do two adjacent classrooms for use by intervention specialists or as additional breakout space. Similarly, each team also has a small group room to be utilized by reading specialists or for more “focused” learning needs. Kindergarten and first grade are nearly identical layouts with first grade stacked on top of kindergarten to provide the potential for multi-age learning. Staff work areas for copier and supply access are available within each grade level in addition to a shared staff eating and planning room on each floor level to facilitate cross-grade collaboration. Spaces like the Media Center, Art, Music, Gym and Dining are all centrally located for easier and controlled access from the grade levels. The two-story dining space penetrates into the middle of the building, allowing for natural light to filter further into the internal rooms and spaces.
The site naturally slopes from the east to the west, so in order to help minimize the costs associated with hauling dirt and to reduce the overall construction carbon footprint, the ground level (first floor) was designed with three different finish floor elevations that are connected via ramps to accommodate the slope.
Two goals became apparent during the school and community visioning sessions: the new elementary should foster differentiated and personalized learning and the built environment should be light and playful. With those two goals in mind, the interior inspiration is derived from the light-hearted nature of playing with soap bubbles. Each of us exist in our own bubble, composed of a unique set of traits. We are constantly on the move, growing, discovering, and learning independently. When a group of singular bubbles come together, our boundaries converge. What once was an individual journey becomes a shared experience. We start to grow, discover, and learn from each other as a community. The elementary is meant to foster learning through environments catering toward the individual needs, as well as the collaborative needs of the community. Circular motifs and pops of color are used to keep the space feeling light and playful.
Sustainability is integrated throughout the new Primary building, with the goal of achieving LEED v.4.0 Silver Certification. Features include:
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