The Chehalis School District is constructing two new elementary schools to reconfigure its elementary grade levels to new groupings of PreK-2nd Grades and 3rd-5th Grades. The new elementary schools will be constructed on an undeveloped site just south of the middle school. This property was donated to the District by Gail Shaw who believed that the highest benefit to the community of the land was for school use. His vision for the site was an educational campus serving the community.
We began the design process by facilitating a summer-long series of workshops, meetings and tours with a diverse committee of educators, parents and district staff in order to create a vision and goals for the project. It is the District’s vision to create a welcoming and safe campus which fosters a love of learning by inspiring students and cultivating a sense of belonging.
The front door of each new school face each other and tie into the campus walkway. The commons is the heart of the school where the community and school meet and where students gather together for lunch and assemblies. It’s a space filled with abundant daylight, views and access to the outdoor learning courtyard and a place to display creative student work. A clear U-shaped circulation path connects the commons to the classroom wings, which are organized around shared activity spaces for each cluster of 4-6 classrooms.
A strong connection to the natural environment fosters curiosity, discovery and stewardship. The courtyard is a key in-between space for teachable moments regarding food, water, habitat and ecology. Designed with constant views and access from all areas of the school it orients circulation and sustains the sense of discovery as the landscape changes throughout the year.