Saugatuck Public Schools successfully passed a $35.6 million bond in 2020 to update their district’s aging elementary and middle / high school facilities. Significant upgrades to Douglas Elementary School, originally built in the early 1950s, were proposed to enhance the students’ overall learning environment. Along with infrastructure improvements, the updated school design brings new opportunities to students through modern education spaces, flexible furniture, outdoor-based learning, and collaborative-focused commons areas. This project also rethinks the main entrance to enhance hospitality and security, creating a positive and welcoming first impression that is “Uniquely Saugatuck.”

Two learning commons at the heart of the facility were a focal point of the renovation. With the goal of increasing attraction to the core spaces of the elementary school, the learning commons create a welcoming environment that draws students in to engage with the extended learning areas and new technology. A new student support area near the commons center also offers special education and counseling services that are easily accessible to the whole building. Creating transparent connections, internally and externally, creates excitement around the learning that is visible and increases natural light throughout the building. Throughout the facility, expanded classrooms spaces, new lockers, and refreshed aesthetics will carry on the welcoming feeling to early learners. Renovated science, music, and art spaces also give students up-to-date materials that enhance their curriculum.

A large, new outdoor classroom and playground were added to the school grounds creating an educational space focused on nature. Natural playscapes, new landscaping, and a covered gathering space have transformed the outdoor environment. The new outdoor area creates a place for students to learn hands-on and engage with their natural surroundings. This space is intended to be used as an outdoor classroom and lab and create the opportunity for students to study nature, science, and art. A rain garden that catches runoff stormwater from the roof forms a flowing creek through the landscape, creating a sustainable and natural water feature.

The district also wanted Douglas Elementary to serve the community through this improvement project. The new larger learning commons areas, ADA compliant restrooms, and outdoor play spaces make this school a great resource for the community. Upgraded safety and security features, such as video surveillance and fire suppression system updates, were also included in the renovation. This project was completed while school was in session over multiple phases to minimize disruptions to school operations during design and construction.

Douglas Elementary School Improvements

Location Saugatuck, MI
Size 66,750 sq. ft. Renovation & Addition
Status Completed 2022
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These renovations have had an immediate impact on student health, safety and well-being.

Tim Travis, Saugatuck Public Schools Superintendent