Location: East Syracuse, NY
Completed: Summer 2021
Program: K-5 Classrooms, Collaborative Commons, Library/Media Center, Art Room, Maker Lab, Band/Music rooms, Gymnasium, Cafeteria, and administrative spaces
Construction Type: Addition + Renovation
East Syracuse Minoa’s $49.8 million Capital Project, “Our Elementary Objective”, focuses on safety, learning, and integrity improvements at four of the five Pre-K to Grade 5 schools, ranging in age from 50 to 80 years old, in the ESM school district.
Woodland Elementary, originally designed and built in 1968, underwent a complete interior renovation that transformed the K – 5 open plan design into a new 21st Century Learning environment. This building was particularly unique in that it was still operating within the 1960’s era “open plan” concept design, which at the time featured classrooms with no physical walls separating one another. Over time, the district tried to adapt the building to create more traditional classrooms, which resulted in a maze of semi-permanent walls, bookcases, chalkboards, and other furniture, yet the spaces still suffered from excessive noise and lacked modern day safety and security features. However, the lack of walls also gave King + King an almost completely blank slate to work with for the new design.
The building itself is divided into two large areas, originally connected by two North and South corridors with an exterior courtyard between them. This courtyard was severely underutilized, so the design team opted to demolish the connecting corridors and infill it, creating a new large group “Collaborative Commons” addition that now provides a central hub to the school, as well as a new secure Main Entrance, Lobby, and School Store. While the rest of the exterior footprint remained intact, the interior of the building was completely renovated with one half becoming a Primary wing housing Kindergarten and 1st grade, and the other half becoming the Intermediate wing with 2nd – 5th grades. The new design now provides each classroom with true walls, yet each grade level is still interconnected by flexible partitions or sliding doors, allowing teachers to close themselves off or open their spaces up to one another. This creates interconnected, collaborative classrooms across each grade level, which pays homage to the idea of the original open plan school but executes it in a more functional and practical 21st Century way. Each grade level also incorporates small group rooms, break-out spaces, and a version of their own flexible learning zone, which become an extension of their classroom and utilizes space that would traditionally serve as just a means to get from point A to B.
In addition to the classroom redesigns, the central axis of the building is now home to an elementary version of a STEAM corridor, featuring core Specials classes which include a modern Library/Media Center, Art Room, Maker Lab, and adequately sized Band and Music rooms. While these spaces are all interconnected, they also open to the new Collaborative Commons, which allows classes to easily flex into a larger space for group activities or to collaborate between one another. The existing Gymnasium, Cafeteria, and administrative spaces also underwent complete renovation, and upgrades were made to existing infrastructure with full replacement of HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, and IT systems. The inclusion of a new sprinkler system rounds out the upgrades throughout the building.
The project, significantly guided by the district’s 2018-23 Strategic Plan, aligns the quality of design of learning environments with an emphasis on education, innovation, and security into a modern, collaborative, and safe 21st Century Learning environment.