Shelby Public Schools passed a $33 million bond in May 2021 for district-wide improvements including the consolidation of their lower and upper elementary schools into a new elementary school. The Shelby community, administration, and staff gathered for a two-day workshop with the GMB team to determine district and community priorities related to the educational landscape. During the workshop, influential words that reflect the values and learning initiatives of Shelby were identified to include in various spaces of the design.
It was important that the design fit into the culture of the surrounding community, with special attention being paid to the local agricultural landscape and aesthetic. The design sets the facility’s three classroom wings into the landscape to resemble barns in a field. The exterior and interior design intentionally reflects the demographic and agricultural industry. The exterior palette uses a corrugated metal panel and wood reminiscent of barn construction and the interior design takes cues from wooden fruit boxes, nature, and the local region to make students feel more comfortable and welcome without being overly busy or loud.
The new elementary, designed to accommodate 600 K-5 students, is now centrally located on the same campus as the district’s middle school and high school. This location is more efficient for busing and provides a better experience for parents with multiple students who now share one campus. Combining facilities also provides more opportunities for student and staff collaboration across grade levels and the special programs are now centralized with shared resources. The building and playground leverage the existing topography of the site and have tiered levels that cascade down the natural hillside with views to the wooded area on the north side. The building was also designed to be physically inclusive with ramps between levels to create accessibility for all.
The K-5 building layout separates the academic classrooms from a ‘main street’ hallway that connects to the shared resources including the gym, cafeteria, STEM space, and main entry. To further embrace the student connection to the Shelby community, each academic wing was given an identity around elements found in the natural environment that include an orchard, forest, and lake. Bright colors and illustrations are infused throughout the facility with experiential hallway graphics and flexible furniture. Shelby has a large population of students who speak English as a second language, so each graphic in the school is represented in both English and Spanish. The school’s gymnasium and cafeteria will also act as community resources that are available for public events with separation from the academic spaces for added security. Overall, the new elementary offers an age-appropriate, holistically accessible environment for young learners that supports collaboration and inspires learning.