The design of this new elementary school reflects the community’s desire to inspire imagination, acknowledge connections to the environment, and instill a sense of stewardship. The decision to use the former high school site achieved early goals: a walkable school, increased community use, and reduced sprawl.
The narrow 13-acre site dictated a “linear village” footprint of 5 connected segments, each with a distinctive spatial break and articulated orientation to McKeen Street. Each segment in the village (cafeteria/gym, lobby/administration, K-2, 3-5, arts/library) has a distinct use, yet harmonizes with the whole through shared materials and colors. The center of the linear village arrangement, a rotunda/lobby with two main entrances, separates the parent drop-off from the bus loop on the other side. The joints between segments house teacher prep rooms and “activity pockets” with benches.
The building runs east-west, so all classrooms and major spaces maximize natural north or south daylighting. On the east end, the single-story library and fine arts wing maintains a pedestrian-friendly relationship with quiet, residential Spring Street. The school snakes to the west and interior of the site, culminating in a community recreation center marked by dynamic exterior brick patterns.
Interior design concentrated on color-coded wayfinding. Abstract floral patterns in flooring and wall materials call attention to the environment and reinforce students’ identification with their own “house.” Cast bronze reliefs of fish, frogs, and birds installed at student eye level by classroom doors distinguish each classroom. Cast stone floral entablatures and Art Deco lanterns from the original high school were painstakingly saved, restored, and placed adjacent to the new entries.
Every classroom links to another through a shared tutorial room. Classroom design and light, sturdy furnishings allow teachers to change classroom configurations in minutes. Tall shelving units, counters, and wardrobe cabinets maximize storage.
The opportunity to demonstrate environmental stewardship emerged when the old high school chimney was demolished. Migrating chimney swifts were faced with losing their waystation. In a collaborative effort between the town, Maine Audubon, and the architect, a new chimney swift tower was built in time for the spring migration.
A closed-loop geothermal system heats and cools the entire school, achieving an early goal to provide extended summer use. Payback on the geothermal system is estimated at 8 years. This high-performance school is currently being documented for LEED-Silver certification.