To support an influx of K-8 students, Grandville Public Schools built a new 7/8 middle school which will allow them to repurpose the existing middle school into a 5/6 facility and open space in their neighborhood elementary buildings as part of a $94 million bond proposal. The new $57 million 7/8 building is located adjacent to the current high school and addresses capacity issues at the district’s elementary buildings with the increase of new developments to the area. Treating this shared location as a campus allows room for future expansion and creates a combined location for community amenities.

The new, multi-story facility boasts more than 200,000 square feet of teaching and learning space that is flexible and student focused. A large learning staircase with adjacent technology creates a space for students to socialize, have small group meetings, and eat lunch. Corridors are spacious and act as extended, active learning areas with movable furniture and technology. Emphasis on creating external and internal transparency with safety glazing gives the facility ample natural light but maintains student focus and security with sight lines for adequate supervision. A large media center with presentation spaces and multiple soft seating options fosters a sense of collaboration and innovation. Breakout rooms and large group spaces create flexible learning opportunities in a non-traditional setting to boost creative thinking.

The new middle school offers students a variety of specialized spaces for a well-rounded educational experience. Classrooms contain modular casework, TVs on mobile carts, and flexible furniture which allows for easy rearranging of teachers and programs as educational needs change throughout the day and in the future. The academic wing is separated from shared resource areas with the cafeteria acting as a central hub in between. Specialized areas include a performing arts theater classroom, shop spaces, an art room, STEM classrooms, science lab with outdoor access, and band, orchestra and choir spaces. Multiple athletics spaces in the school give Grandville students plenty of opportunity to increase their physical activity and competitive sport pursuits. A large gymnasium with bleachers and an upper track is complemented by an adjacent wrestling and cheer space. The school also features an additional auxiliary gymnasium and a weight room with community access. Outside, middle school-aged students can participate in recreation time on the basketball courts, 40-meter sprint turf, or athletic fields. The main gymnasium, located on the north side of the site, is built into the hillside which minimizes the visual footprint of the facility to keep sight lines desirable for nearby neighborhoods. Placing the building on this location on site also preserves the existing wetland and many of the school’s mature trees. The academics wing faces a wetland area which offers natural views during class time. An outdoor tiered seating area near the wetlands also gives students a chance to learn in an outdoor setting.

This project included a significant upgrade in facilities for the district’s signature extracurricular robotics program, the Grandville Robodawgs. The robotics arena, the only built-for-purpose robotics competition center in the eastern United States, can host a variety of competitions (including Lego League and aerial drones) with up to 2,000 spectators. The adjacent multi-purpose gymnasium space can convert from hosting traditional sports to becoming a venue for FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC) and VEX Robotics with multiple competition fields and pits for up to 120 teams. Adjacent woodshop spaces, mini hardware store, concessions, and multiple load-in points with large rollup doors allow for robot building and practice, 3D printing, storage, and multi-purpose space. The district can control the amount of access to the school’s non-academic spaces for after-hours use, keeping the academics wing secure while still welcoming groups for events or extracurricular activities.

The facility’s design also incorporates many methodologies that enhance the social-emotional learning and development of middle school students. By creating intentional collaboration spaces that encourage relationship building to promoting nature rich learning with hands-on opportunities, the district kept student mental health in mind. A counseling area in the school also has a separate entrance from the main office to promote student’s privacy when seeking support services. Throughout the facility, a cohesive maroon and gray color palette, along with branded graphics, clearly identifies itself as a “Grandville” building. Student focused messaging in the building encourages positivity and an inclusive sense of belonging for all students.