Consolidating Schools Equals Efficiency

By Jessie Fetterling

CORINTH, Maine — The new 97,000-square-foot Central Community Elementary School in Corinth was constructed to consolidate five rural elementary schools into one energy-efficient building. Its design not only includes better operating systems, but also offers more programming space to give the district’s PreK-5 students more educational opportunities.

The new 97,000-square-foot Central Community Elementary School in Corinth was positioned in a way that allows it to take advantage of natural daylight patterns.

Brewer, Maine-based Nickerson & O’Day Inc. completed construction on the nearly $21.4 million facility in time for the 2016-17 school year, while Harriman, with offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, served as the architect. The new school serves approximately 530 students from the towns of Bradford, Corinth, Hudson, Kenduskeag and Stetson, replacing each town’s outdated elementary school.

“This was an opportunity for the district to consolidate all schools into one brand-new school located in Corinth, where the middle school and high school were already located,” said Jeff Larimer, AIA, principal for Harriman. “Some of the schools [had enrollments of] less than 100 students each, so it brought all the students together and shut down these tiny elementary schools that had no gyms, cafeterias or libraries and created a new school that had all the amenities [the district] needed.”

All-Inclusive Design Process

Harriman applied an all-inclusive approach to the design process by distributing questionnaires to school representatives and staff to elicit specific feedback on individual classrooms and other spaces. The next step was conducting one-on-one interviews to meet with as many staff members as possible to talk about the building’s overall design.

“This provides a lot of input in terms of design information as well as part of the programming aspect, so we have a clear understanding of the size of spaces needed,” Larimer said.

He added that some of the existing schools lacked many critical spaces. In one school operating without a cafeteria, lunches were brought in daily from the nearby middle school and students had to eat at their desks. Other schools didn’t even offer a library and instead relied on periodic visits from a bookmobile.

New Opportunities

Harriman designed the new facility to include a two-story classroom wing that is separate from non-academic spaces. Kindergarten and grades one and two take up classrooms on the first floor, while fourth and fifth grade students are housed on the second floor. Five classrooms per grade level are arranged in clusters to support teacher collaboration. There are also dedicated rooms for special education services and gathering spaces to accommodate multiple classes for common programs.

The school currently serves approximately 530 students from the towns of Bradford, Corinth, Hudson, Kenduskeag and Stetson.
Photo Credit (all): Blind Dog Photography

Perhaps the most significant advantage of the new elementary school is that it gives PreK-5 students access to more amenities than were available in the smaller, individual elementary schools. That includes everything from art and music rooms to a cafeteria and gymnasium, as well as a PreK program space that had not previously been available in any of the schools.

“We were looking for a building that could support students in ways that they didn’t have in the others,” said Rhonda Sperrey, superintendent of schools for RSU No. 64. “For instance, there wasn’t physical therapy or occupational therapy available for special-education students, and we didn’t have space for a prekindergarten program; however, we were able to add that to our existing programs with the addition of this facility.”

Most of these newer program spaces are situated in the interdisciplinary wing, which connects to the academic wing. Also included in this area are a cafeteria with a full-production kitchen and a gymnasium. These two spaces in particular are linked by a common stage for school events. The cafeteria can also be divided into two smaller spaces for more flexibility of use.

When the school opened, approximately 530 students were in attendance, but the new school is designed to accommodate 580 if needed in the future, Larimer said.

Read more about this project in the January/February issue of School Construction News, available now.