By treating the site as a campus, open pathways and connections are formed from early education through grade 12. Understanding the building’s physical attributes and their potential impacts on learning was a key to creating a true 21st Century plan concept. The result saved the state and communities over $20 million, while allowing for a fully transformative and comprehensive solution.
Designing for a New District
The towns of Ayer and Shirley, on Massachusetts' northern border, faced precipitous student enrollment declines as a result of the closure of the Fort Devens military base a decade ago. The two towns came together to form a new district and share resources, and also to maintain a critical enrollment mass. With many students opting to attend out-of-district schools, a simple face-lift renovation would do little to change the current educational culture. Whereas the original 1960 building once housed over 1,000 students, the new grade 9-12 population is planned for 460 students.
Challenging the notion of simply renovating a 50-year-old building, the SMMA design team asked, “How can we remake a school from a bygone era to inspire teachers, engage students, and embrace the two communities?”
The Massachusetts School Building Authority had prescribed a combined middle and high school, to increase the total population. SMMA convinced the communities to rethink the logic of this assumption by thoroughly analyzing the physical attributes of the building, and then stepping back and master-planning the District’s entire portfolio of schools.