Lake Orion Community Schools’ new Blanche Sims Elementary School will replace the oldest elementary building in the district with a new, modern facility serving students in DK through 5th grade. The 68,875 SF school will consist of 19 classrooms, a secure entry and office spaces, extended learning spaces throughout the building, a new kitchen with servery, cafeteria with stage, gymnasium, STEM center and media center.
The building was designed into grade-level pods with classrooms, interior extended learning areas and covered outdoor learning spaces. The classrooms will be larger than in the previous facility and were designed to fit more flexible and collaborative 21st century learning styles. An emphasis on integrating indoor and outdoor spaces together will now allow students to easily engage with outdoor learning. Outdoor access points are included in each pod and classrooms offer unobstructed outdoor views with as much natural light as possible inside the building. Elementary specials, resource rooms and bathrooms are located off the main central spine of the building, with good proximity to new playgrounds.
One unifying element across the district is the principle of “we are all dragons” to represent the district’s mascot of the dragon. Motifs throughout this new facility include dragon scale details and dragon head graphics, which create a fun and consistent feeling for students and the community throughout Lake Orion’s district. Another district-wide principle carried out in this project was the inclusion of a dedicated space focused on STEM learning. This center will help students develop their collaborative teamwork skills, problem-solving and creativity.
The new school is built on the same site as the previous elementary school, which will be demolished during the summer before the facility is completed Fall of 2023. Site access and the relationship to the building challenged the project team to think about how visitors and parents approach the building, in comparison to buses, and how the building and site can respond to each other to achieve a balanced and sensitive design. Where a previous transportation building and the current playground sit will become the parking lot with the parent drop-off and bus loops. The space where the current building is will become part of the playground and a stormwater management area.