In 2018 Carmel Clay Schools (CCS) began the process of evaluating their projected enrollments and addressing their aging elementary schools. The end result was the decision to replace their oldest elementary school in the heart of downtown Carmel on the same site and build a new elementary school on the West side of town.
Through evaluation of their existing facilities, user group meetings, and administrative input, CSO was able to develop a design solution personalized to the specific needs and desires of teachers, faculty, administrators, and students.
CCS wanted to retain what was good and functional about their existing facilities while also creating innovative learning environments ready for the next 50+ years of education. CCS had explored a grade level neighborhood or pod concept previously, but teachers expressed frustration with the size and ability to supervise students in these shared spaces. CSO’s design solution is five classrooms with large glass doors that open to a large commons space. Each pair of classrooms includes a shared small group room and ‘cubby alcove’ for student storage. These neighborhoods are expected to house an entire grade level and are paired in the overall layout to allow them to share a secure outdoor courtyard. At the center of the building is the ‘Discovery Center’ with overhead doors that allow students to freely access the space throughout the day. The building is designed to fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.
CCS students and staff are excited for the new opportunities these buildings create for teachers to teach and students to learn in new ways.
The design of this new two-story K-4 elementary builds on concepts from CSO’s design of Southeastern Elementary School. While programming for this new school with HSE administrators, principals, and faculty, the design team determined the previous school design was a resounding success and very few enhancements were recommended for improvement. Daylighting and views, visibility, flexible furniture, classroom extensions, and multiple types of learning spaces are still key elements of the inquiry-based learning environment created.
Each learning neighborhood includes six studios (classrooms) and a central shared activity commons that is large enough for the entire neighborhood to gather. Also included in each neighborhood is a small STEM lab/kitchenette, three small group rooms, and three sets of student restrooms. Outdoor courtyards, patios, and rooftop terraces help bring the outdoors in and provide additional opportunity for extending the classroom outside.
Adjacent to the learning neighborhoods are instructional spaces for art and music along with a language/global studies/resource studio The close proximity between the neighborhoods and the enrichment areas provides the possibility of a flex classroom should a grade level size fluctuate and need an additional classroom.
The most central point in the building is the Discovery Center (Media Center) and support spaces. A large, two-story open area draws students into the space with various zones for gathering and reading as well as providing space for media production.
When the community supported WWS in their endeavor to address growing facility needs throughout the district with approval of a referendum, the largest allocation was put toward expanding the existing high school. Administrators saw this as an opportunity to not only address the needs of growing programs and an aging building, but to transform its education model and align the built environment with their pedagogical vision.
CSO studied existing facility use and programming information to quantify space utilization and projected student and program growth. Using CSO’s data, administrators decided to make the leap to a university model of education, allowing them to increase building efficiency and maximize the use of their budget to benefit as many parts of the building and programs as possible. In addition to this shift in space usage, WHS sought to accommodate growing demand for career ready programs, provide flexible areas for student use, and create spaces where students would want to spend time. All new and renovated spaces were designed to easily adapt to future program needs by minimizing built-in fixtures and maximizing use of mobile and flexible furniture. CSO worked closely with WHS to establish an aesthetic that mirrored the new educational direction with a high-tech, industrial feel while maintaining subtle touches that are distinctly Westfield.
The collaborative process between WHS and CSO and in-depth programming was critical to the success of this project. This approach allowed WHS to accomplish so much more than a traditional approach to projected growth would have allowed. The resultant custom tailored building will better support today’s students and staff in their endeavors and allow WHS to adapt to an unknown future much more readily and rapidly.
Originating as Plainfield High School in 1956, the building has been expanded and renovated more than sixteen times over the last 60 years.
CSO’s design solution emphasized impacting learning environments, improving building circulation, and upgrading finishes, lighting, and technology throughout the building. The most dramatic change to the building is a new two-story corridor that cuts through a large portion of the existing building. This new space creates a student commons and a clear main entry for the building. The renovated media center and new STEAM focused ‘Idea Lab’ are placed directly adjacent to the student commons, helping to emphasize their importance to the school.
Classrooms were reorganized into grade level specific areas to breakdown the large footprint of the building. Designers capitalized on underutilized space throughout the building by removing walls to corridors to create shared collaboration and break out spaces for teachers to utilize throughout the day.
Various construction types and methods from multiple eras posed a unique challenge for CSO’s designers. By thinking creatively and relying on their expertise, they were able to breathe new life into this building.
Originally built in 1967 with subsequent smaller additions in the following decades, much of the building remained in its original state. While school pride and nostalgia is strong throughout the community, the building had fallen far behind the needs today’s learners.
Through an intense programming process, CSO was able to get to know the culture of the school, determine the current needs of teachers and students, and create an opportunity for the administration to dream about the future. The final solution adds much needed space for new classrooms, expanded performing arts, and a new auditorium. The new academic addition is situated across the front of the existing high school, creating a new front door and updated image for the community. The new ‘heart’ of the building is a two story ‘Student Union’ where students can spend time before, during, and after school, with learning resources and breakout spaces all around. Collaborative flex spaces and study rooms were located throughout the building to accommodate new learning styles and small group engagement. Capitalizing on a desire to expand elective course offerings, new specialty areas were added to accommodate TV/Radio, Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Culinary Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Art programs. CSO created a unique sense of place throughout the interior with touches of orange and blue ensuring there would no question you were at Silver Creek High School.
Throughout this project there was emphasis on making sure ‘we do things the right way’, while maintaining a focus on budget and the many other needs beyond the High School building. CSO is humbled to be chosen to help steward SCSC through this process and provide a truly transformational project for this community that will impact students for decades to come.