Q: Can you give us some suggestions on assembling a feasibility study for putting an elementary school on our campus? — submitted by Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas
A: Elementary schools situated on college campuses should be compatible. Both utilize similar facilities, are high-traffic environments open during similar periods of time, and share similar annual calendars and staff-to-student ratios. On the other hand, elementary school children are young, vulnerable and require constant supervision, which is quite different from collegiate environments. The key to a successful co-location will be in creating appropriate boundaries while establishing shared connections and synergies:
First, commission a planning expert with experience in elementary school design to help develop the project planning team. Other members should include representatives of the college's facilities department, college of education, as well as elementary school administrators, teachers and board members, and city planning and building officials.
The planning team should consider benchmarking other elementary facilities on collegiate campuses. Querying a “list serve” of educators can provide locations of similar institutions that have information regarding site planning, building design, operational requirements and staff/student counts.
Site location and design are fundamental aspects of successful elementary school design. A school designed to support 700 elementary students could require 12 acres in order to accommodate required site elements such as parking, bus dropoff, sports and recreational fields, playground equipment, the school footprint (one or two stories) and landscaping. A site near the edge of campus will facilitate easy access by buses, delivery vehicles, staff and parents, and eliminate unnecessary through-campus traffic. Bus traffic, service vehicles, automobiles and pedestrian traffic must be segregated carefully to maximize student safety.
Recreational and sports spaces
Playgrounds and athletic spaces should be adjacent to the school and will require separation from other campus facilities in most cases. If fields are not adjacent to school, then a safe means of transport must be developed. Although students are supervised while outdoors, access to these spaces must be limited.
Visual access to indoor and outdoor spaces
Administrative and classroom spaces should have visual access to outdoor functions. Views from one area to another should be unimpeded — especially corridors from administrative areas. Low-rise construction based on radial architecture will promote casual observation for safety and operational effectiveness.
Opportunities for shared use could include recreation and athletic spaces, cafeteria and food service, computer resources and media functions, as well as general parking and service areas. In addition, if the campus contains multiple performance spaces, shared use of these facilities could be considered. The elementary school could use central campus utilities such as steam, chilled water, electricity, sewer, water and telecommunications systems.
Consult with legal consul to resolve issues such as lease or ownership agreements, shared use of spaces and future expansion issues. In addition, the use of common utilities and maintenance staff will require a clear financial agreement.
Moran is principal with Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc., Minneapolis.