CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(SMMA/Symmes Maini & McKee Associates opened last week across Massachusetts. Students ranging from kindergartners to high school seniors were welcomed by their teachers into Grafton High, Tewksbury Memorial High, Wellesley High, Billerica Parker Elementary, and Stow Pompositticut Center Elementary Schools.)--Designed to provide learning environments where positive socialization can flourish together with 21st Century learning, five schools designed by
“Each of these new schools, and the design strategies behind each, share common goals within learning environments where students can develop individual creativity, collaboration skills, and form positive bonds with peers, teachers and staff. Successful socialization of each student is recognized as an essential outcome of education today.”
While each school is a distinctive reflection of the educational needs of the individual community, these new facilities collectively offer tangible evidence of a bold new academic and social mission. With the goal of preparing students for a world transformed by technology -based learning and a knowledge-based economy, today’s K-12 teaching environments are a dramatic departure from the conventional schools built in the past 100 years.
Describing the differences between these new schools and the older traditional facilities, SMMA’s Director of Institutional Practice Alex Pitkin, AIA said the change is nothing short of transformational. “Each of these new schools, and the design strategies behind each, share common goals within learning environments where students can develop individual creativity, collaboration skills, and form positive bonds with peers, teachers and staff. Successful socialization of each student is recognized as an essential outcome of education today.”
This translates into creating an entirely new way of connecting the educational programs and disciplines, especially in larger schools like high schools where neighborhood modules or clusters of classrooms are grouped together fostering and strengthening science, technology, engineering, math, arts and humanities skills. These smaller groupings are connected to the larger school with easy access to the school’s public spaces such as auditorium, cafeteria, and other ‘Main Street’ gathering spaces. According to Pitkin, “this approach allows students to gather into more “comfortable” communities of learning, which share a core group of teachers and support spaces and where students can feel “known” as individuals.”
Technology to Support Education
What all five new schools have in common is a transformational leap in technology to support modern learning. In Grafton High School for example, each student is receiving a new iPad to connect them with the school’s teaching tools and building-wide WIFI network. In many of the new schools, interactive white boards in the classrooms allow students to download information posted by teachers as a study aid. The 222,000 square foot Wellesley High School, which opened ahead of schedule following winter break, integrates technology with sustainable design. This includes a geothermal heating and cooling system, a 40 KW solar panel array, high efficiency lighting and high performance mechanical systems designed to significantly reduce energy demand. An interactive energy data display dashboard in the school’s lobby – and accessible online – displays the building’s energy use, heating and cooling demand, water savings and photovoltaic solar energy production in real time.
These schools are receiving enthusiastic reviews from students, teachers and local officials. “To say I’m proud to be principal is an understatement,” Grafton High School Principal James Pignataro said.
Billerica Selectmen Chairman Andrew Deslaurier described the difference between municipal spending and investing. "This is an investment," he said. "This transforms an entire community."
Dr. Patricia A. Lally, Assistant Superintendent of Tewksbury Public Schools and former Principal of Tewksbury Memorial High School said “The opening of our new High School speaks to the value the Tewksbury community places on education. I am proud and grateful to have been part of the “Tewksbury Team” – parents, students, residents, town and school officials. Now, along with an outstanding faculty, the children in Tewksbury have an incredible learning environment.”
Listing of Newly-opened Schools
Grafton High School: 900 students; $55M; 186,300 sf, expandable to house 1,100 students in the future
Parker Elementary School, Billerica: 850 students; $22M; 89,000 sf; major building elements separated into a connected series of three-story building masses to reduce scale
Pompositticut Center Elementary School: 660 students; $24M, 98,000 sf, combined new construction and renovation
Tewksbury High School: 1,100 students; $51M, 219,000 sf; iteration of SMMA’s model school design
Wellesley High School: 1,400 students; $110M; 222,000 sf; incorporates hub and spoke layout