Whole Child Education

Vivid New Public School Opens in Richmond

RICHMOND, Calif., May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- A new state-of-the-art sustainable school, Ford Elementary, will be having its grand opening celebration on Saturday, May 19th. Designed to address the whole child, both body and mind, Ford Elementary creates a strong learning environment from a child's point-of-view.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120516/CG08176)

The two-story building, awhirl with bright colors and shapes, was designed by Sally Swanson Architects. Ms. Swanson, founding principal and CEO, explains, "Our goal is to provide a community-based school that is secure, totally green and healthy, and also delightful—relating to the age level of the students and very life-affirming."

A highly collaborative bilingual planning and design process has resulted in joint-use spaces, innovative technology and security systems, and a green and energy-saving campus. The new school was built with the support of the citizens of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, and has received strong support by the WCCUSD Board.

 "We're very excited moving into our new school, so thoughtfully tailored to our needs which were not being met by our previous school layout.  Our students will certainly thrive in such a joyful, creative environment," said Principal Barbara Penny-James. She is implementing a 'MicroSociety' learning program within Ford.  Students create their own 'society' becoming sellers of goods and electing officials while earning wages in the school's "Micro" currency.

"The school's layout maximizes flexibility, accommodating a variety of diverse teaching methods and programs," explained Carlos Velilla, SSA's Director of Design. The second floor corridor is transformed into a street with light-filled corridors that double as a collaborative in-between space where learning can take place. The design also merges formal classroom spaces with accessible educational play equipment and outdoor programs. 

The original school, built in 1949, was an outdated and unsafe learning environment that offered the community few amenities and little sense of ownership.  Construction on the new 68,000 square feet school was completed by Alten Construction and overseen by SGI Construction Management. The new school's design references the community culture using an imaginative interpretation of the Mission style with decorative blue and yellow tiles and an outsized arched library window. The cheerful facade signals a school environment that incorporates equal parts fun, creativity and learning.  Windows, openings, and building details reduce the large scale to that of a child. The educational program works hand in hand to engage younger minds.

The school's design process included a series of well-attended community workshops. Helping offset the dearth of neighborhood open space, the school includes a community garden, a mini-soccer field, as well as a small plaza with places for adults to sit, meet, and feel at home. The elementary school also provides after-hours joint-use spaces with the community, as well as Adult Education.

A two pronged security system allows different levels of access at different times of the day and evening. The school also includes advanced technology, with closed circuit cable and 5- internal channel TV, allowing programs and teaching lessons to be recorded and replayed.

Sustainability has been pursued diligently; the building has received one of the highest point ratings from California's Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS). Strategic orientation to create 100% natural light in classroom; maximizing fresh air indoors; green and non-toxic materials; and insulation made from recycled blue jeans are a few of the sustainable highlights. Outdoors, native plants and bioswales add greenery with low water requirements, and are also used as educational components.

"Student attention can be caught voluntarily within a creative and engaging environment, giving permission to contemplate new connections," explains architect Sally Swanson.

The opening celebration for the new school will take place from ten to noon on Saturday and will include a tour of the facilities.

Media Contact:

D. Fromm Sally Swanson Architects, 415 445-3045, dfromm@swanarch.com

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SOURCE Sally Swanson Architects



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