In Summer 2011, the Rochester, New Hampshire School District partnered with Lavallee Brensinger Architects to complete a study of its eight elementary schools, seeking to identify conditions affecting the education and experience of the students it serves. After reviewing the existing conditions of each school, Lavallee Brensinger was asked to provide a district-wide master plan. This plan mapped out improvements to each of the schools and prioritized them, with East Rochester ranking the highest immediate need.
Built as an open design school in 1968, the original structure had very few windows and little natural light. Shortly after opening, the building was retrofit with partial height, impermanent walls. As the school’s supported population grew, lack of storage left book cases and school supplies lining the classroom areas and consuming the already undersized floor space. In evaluating each of these needs, the Rochester Joint Building Committee identified five overarching design priorities for the new East Rochester Elementary: increased natural light, adequately sized rooms, improved acoustics, efficient systems, and child friendly environments.
To Lavallee Brensinger Associate Lance Whitehead, this meant an emphasis on the interior. “The focus was not exterior beauty, or to create an architectural statement,” said Whitehead. “We have a serious intent to create a really great interior education space that the students find warm and exciting, because that is what they were lacking.” To ensure that each decision throughout design continued to address their goals, teachers and staff were consulted regularly for comments and approval. Upon conclusion of this phase, members of the Joint Building Committee and Lavallee Brensinger met with East Rochester students and staff once again to ensure support and overall happiness with the proposed design.
The resulting program minimizes clutter, makes playful use of rainbow colored glass, and provides ample space throughout for student artwork display. It will include construction of a new two-story classroom wing with natural light in every room, repurpose former multi-use space to a kitchen and servery, and renovation to the existing kindergarten wing built in 2000. Interior designs are colorful, thoughtful, and child-centric. On the exterior, additions include a central student plaza, a fire lane, extended parking and parent queuing, site safety and security upgrades, and improved playground access.
The final construction bid came in at $500,000 under budget in May, and Phase I of construction is now underway. During the first phase, the two-story classroom space will be built behind the existing school, in preparation for students to move over to the new classrooms at the end of the school year. This month marks the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, in which East Rochester Elementary will be fully occupied and yet realize minimal impacts throughout all phases of construction.