IKM was asked to review potential solutions for improvements for the Mars Area Middle School. A thorough facility assessment was recently performed by the District’s construction management team which dealt with operational performance of all the district’s property assets. IKM’s engagement was to focus specifically of the academic relevance of the Middle School and its ability to support 21st Century educational models. Three solutions were developed to support their goals.
Taking advantage of the original open plan concept and structural flexibility, Option 1 reorganizes the academic footprint into 3 learning communities. Each learning community includes a shared learning commons and faculty office space. Transparency is included wherever possible to provide visual connections between spaces and allows interior windowless Learning Studios to “borrow” daylight from common space. Corridors are also enlarged to assist student flow and provide personalized learning opportunities.
Option 2 focuses resources on adding 21st Century learning environments to the existing cafeteria, gymnasium, and performing arts assets. The property available for such an addition requires a vertical solution or new “academic tower”. This tower is three stories tall with two identical Small Learning Communities (SLCs) on each floor. Each SLC includes a faculty office space, restrooms, home base (where student lockers are located), and a shared Learning Commons. There is also a Small Group Learning Studio in each SLC.
Option 3 relocates the Middle School to vacant, wooded property that is currently owned by the school district, north of the football and baseball complex. This site has characteristics in topography and vegetation that that should be considered in the design of a new middle school, minimizing alterations to both. The new building should be positioned along an East-West axis to maximize daylighting in academic spaces.
The concept provided in Option 3 provides SLC’s in a low-rise application. Similar SLC characteristics to those identified in Option 2 are present in this two-story solution. Setting the building softly into the natural terrain provides ample opportunities for outdoor learning spaces. Additionally, science studios are incorporated into the individual SLCs.
In the Spring of 2018, Mars School District hired IKM to pursue design work for option 2. Construction is set to begin in Spring 2019.