East Lansing is a diverse and unique community, and each school in the district represents various aspects of this community fabric. Community was the driving ethos of the district’s bond campaign, with the goal of preserving this cultural experience while updating the facilities to align with 21st century learning. The district’s elementary schools consist of five buildings located throughout the district: Pinecrest, White Hills, Marble, Glencairn, and Donley. Each of these buildings resides in distinct locations throughout the district and possess a unique culture within the greater East Lansing Public Schools district. 

Understanding the balance between district standards and building-specific uniqueness was a significant component in developing context-sensitive solutions. Maintaining smaller, neighborhood schools was critical in the development, and success of, the bond proposal. As each school would be redesigned and replaced in phases over a five to six year time period, the entire process required significant logistical planning for moving students and teachers to temporary classrooms while the new school buildings were being constructed.

East Lansing Elementary Schools

Location East Lansing, MI
Size 284,000 sq. ft. New Construction (across five buildings)
Status Completed 2021
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Consideration of the surrounding residential architectural aesthetic, pathways to and from the school, and understanding the history of each of these schools were critical to the design team’s considerations when engaging with the program. From the start of the bond, East Lansing identified community engagement and transparency as critical items in the ultimate success and adoption of these projects. Multiple layers of engagement were created to garner input from community, staff, administration, and students from committees to community forums to provide input and give feedback on proposed designs. The district’s commitment to building sustainable and energy-efficient schools was critical from the very beginning.

The idea of the new elementary buildings being neighborhood schools and avoiding appearing institutional was at the core of the design. The simple organization of the program allows for both clear circulation through the building and views to natural light from every part of the building. At the heart of each building is a courtyard space directly adjacent to the cafeteria and main circulation corridor, providing a direct connection to the outdoors and the educational programming that is taking place in that space.

During the beginning of the design, the following Guiding Principles were identified as the drivers for each of the projects.

ENHANCE THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE Create 21st century learning environments and collaborative learning spaces

VISUAL CONNECTIONS TO THE OUTDOORS Maximize natural light in indoor spaces

PRIORITIZE STUDENT SAFETY Separate pedestrian and vehicular traffic and layer building security

DESIGN SUSTAINABLY Plan for future growth and flexibility, consider building orientation on the site, incorporate geothermal heating and cooling, and plan for solar energy

SCHOOL-SPECIFIC GUIDING PRINCIPLES Create a family of buildings with neighborhood-specific unique building designs

Back when we passed the bond in 2017, the end of this project seemed so far away. It's kind of exciting to see it all come together.

Dori Leyko, Superintendent of East Lansing Public Schools