Old School Meets New School
New Design for an Old School
In late 2017, Coleman Partners Architects was engaged by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System to design a new “21st Century Elementary School” to replace an aging Park Elementary School originally constructed in 1955. The School System encouraged the design team to explore options and approaches for the classroom environment not previously considered for other recently constructed elementary schools.
While there is no universal definition of a 21st century educational environment, it is generally recognized by many educational specialists that the primary educational spaces, such as classrooms, should have the following characteristics as outlined in an article by McKenna Wierman.
- The classrooms are filled with natural light and are transparent in nature.
- The classrooms are flexible spaces which encourage the sharing of ideas, collaboration and creativity.
- The classrooms are technology rich incorporating high-speed connectivity, mobile smartboards, computers, tablets, and other features that encourage student inquiry.
- The classrooms utilize furniture that is easily rearranged and supports the sharing of ideas and collaboration.
With these ideas in mind, the architectural team developed a design where each grade level was an “independent identifiable schoolhouse” consisting of three classrooms, a small group instruction space, and restrooms organized around a central collaborative space. In order to encourage the sharing of ideas, collaboration and foster creativity, the walls between the classroom spaces were replaced with folding glass storefronts which are easily opened to create a much larger light filled and transparent educational space conducive to group lectures and project based learning exercises.
The “folding glass storefronts” by Solar Innovations provides several other advantages over the standard solid operable partitions used in the past. The design team specified an exterior grade system capable of withstanding wind and impact loads in order to insure long term performance in a demanding educational environment. As an added benefit, the exterior system specified is equipped with laminated glazing which provides enhanced acoustical performance (higher than normal STC performance) and an increased resistance to forced entry.
Discovering the Importance of Folding Glass Walls
“After the teachers themselves, the folding glass storefronts are one of the primary components which allowed the owner to achieve their goals for a 21st century education environment”, explained Joe Saffiotti, Coleman Partners Architects, Principal-In-Charge.