Back To School 2023

Under Construction and Projects in Design Highlight an Investment in the Evolving K-12 Educational Curriculum 

School is back in session! K-12 Education architecture and engineering is core to LAN’s business. We keep our finger on the pulse of school design and construction trends, and every September we like to share a taste of the school projects we are working on. Here are some of the projects local school districts across New Jersey and New York are investing in to improve the student experience. 

River Vale Public Schools Wrap Up Referendum Projects & Focus on Wellness

In River Vale, several school projects funded by a $34M bond referendum are almost complete. A major focus of the referendum is Holdrum Middle School, where LAN designed a connecting corridor addition, new classrooms, and a wellness space. The connecting corridors improve student traffic flow by removing lockers from inside the classroom and by turning what were once dead-end hallways into shortcuts to other wings of the facility.

The addition also features a new classroom, small group instruction spaces, outdoor living-learning courtyards, and small group counseling spaces. The Wellness Center highlights biophilic design while incorporating large glass walls for natural lighting. Operable partitions blur the boundary between inside and outside, and the finishes provide a connection to nature in a modern aesthetic. In the larger courtyard, there are several community gardens, and the adjacent Wellness Center opens up to a large gathering space for events, performances, and group instruction. 

A second part of the project is set to be completed in the spring of 2024. It includes various capital improvement projects throughout the District that were also included in the referendum. These include new air conditioning, roof replacements, and masonry upgrades. Interior projects include bathroom renovations, electrical panel upgrades, and ceiling, flooring, and lighting replacements.

Ho-Ho-Kus Public School Breaks Ground on Duffield Hall

Renderings represent the project vision early in the design process. The final project incorporates several changes. 

LAN was tasked to reinvent the athletic and wellness spaces at the Ho-Ho-Kus School through the design of the new Duffield Hall. This new state-of-the-art gymnasium and wellness center was made possible by a $10M gift from Dave Duffield, a 1954 graduate of the school. Designed to improve both mental and physical wellness and development, the addition features a major renovation to the existing gymnasium, space for dance, yoga, and mindfulness lessons, and health classrooms.

The existing gymnasium renovation will include a raised roof to allow more natural daylight into the space, while also providing enhanced recreation equipment such as interactive equipment, new scoreboards, and motorized bleachers. LAN redesigned the existing locker rooms to allow for additional spaces including a health classroom and much-needed community bathrooms.

In the wellness center, a large flexible space will be provided for a variety of lesson plans and activities. The design includes a biophilic design approach, utilizing materials that mimic natural elements, blurring the boundary between inside and out. It also contains sliding whiteboard walls, an interactive display, and large glazed areas that provide a view into the outdoor learning space. The space will also include a mirrored wall for dance lessons and sliding whiteboard doors for writable space with storage beyond.       

Plainfield Invests in Athletics

LAN was tasked with providing architecture and engineering design services for two field house projects in Plainfield, New Jersey. The existing 6,850 sf Upper Field House on the 25-acre Hub Stine Sports Complex received a complete interior renovation to bring the space up to a collegiate-level locker room setting. Plainfield Cardinal pride is on display through the design which uses school colors and branding, while the existing scissor-tooth roof structure with clerestory windows provides natural light. The new layout has a team gathering area for meetings, review of game film, and lounging. It is also equipped with athletic lockers, toilet and shower facilities, as well as a trainer’s room, coach’s office, and storage/laundry rooms.

The second project is a ground-up rebuild of the new Lower Field House. A key feature of the building includes a new exterior gathering space with multiple seating options for spectators to congregate during events. The project also includes two large multi-fixture public restrooms large enough to handle a busy day when multiple sporting events are occurring. The building will also house an office for coaches as well as athletic storage. 

Mamaroneck High School Welcomes New STEM and Culinary Arts Labs

At Mamaroneck Union Free School District, High School students will soon be able to take advantage of a new STEM Lab/Design Studio and Culinary Arts Lab. The school’s existing traditional home economics room was renovated into a new Culinary Arts Lab equipped with the appliances you would expect in a commercial kitchen, but designed in a setting for educational instruction. The Lab includes six kitchen stations for students along with a teacher’s demonstration station each hooked up to a monitor with a live video feed for cooking instruction.

A new 5,920 sf STEM Lab encourages collaboration. It includes a large Design Studio bordered by Think Tanks for breakaway learning and a Prototyping Studio. The Prototyping Studio has state-of-the-art additive and subtractive modeling equipment around the perimeter and is equipped with solo worktables for the creation of “tinkering models.” Two large glass movable partitions open to allow the Design Studio and Prototyping Lab to become one space. Between the two Think Tanks is a lounge area with soft seating that provides students with flexibility for small and large group settings.

A new Wood Shop and Metal Shop equipped with the latest technology are also included in the scope of work. Students can use the plasma cutter, computer numeral control (CNC) machine, and other traditional wood and metal working equipment to make their creations.        

Mt. Pleasant Central School District Upgrades Their Athletic Fields

Looking to upgrade their athletic facilities, the Mount Pleasant Central School District turned to the community for a $9.7M referendum. LAN was retained by the District to provide civil and electrical engineering services in support of the project.

The scope of work for this project includes a complete renovation of the existing athletic complex at the combined Mount Pleasant Middle and High School campus. The goal was to increase field playability for both the District and the local community. The project includes the installation of an artificial turf field and surrounding track, LED lights for night games, a press box at the back of the existing bleachers, and a concrete pad with utilities to provide the necessary power for food trucks to operate during events.

The main competition grass field will be replaced with artificial turf that will be infilled with ceramic-coated sand, alleviating maintenance issues and increasing playability. This will allow the District to get more usage out of their field by avoiding the postponement of sporting events and having to play at a different location due to poor field conditions.

Five other fields at the shared High School and Middle School campus received upgrades to improve the playability of the grass fields. New drainage systems, sodding, and irrigation systems, as well as new dugouts, bullpens, and bleachers, will be added at multiple locations.

Port Monmouth Elementary School Opens its Doors to New Pre-K Addition

LAN was retained by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) to design additions and renovations to Port Monmouth Elementary School in Keansburg, NJ. A new one-story, 27,150 sf addition and renovations provided the District with 21 new preschool rooms, a renovated main office, a renovated motor skills room, a new child study team wing, a nurses’ suite, and a 1,400 sf food service area.

A large courtyard bordering the B-wing, separating the A & C wings, is equipped with slides, play areas, seating areas, and other playground equipment for outdoor play. The school was designed with sustainability in mind, with ample daylighting from the courtyard windows, and vegetation in place of pavement where possible.

Classrooms were designed with ample space to accommodate learning areas for dramatic play, art, music and movement, science and discovery, reading, and other activities vital to the development of young students. Each pre-k classroom will also have its own bathroom. Capital improvements were also made to the existing building including new HVAC, masonry repairs, interior finishes, ceilings, lighting, fire alarms, and sprinklers.

Multiple Districts Invest in Outdoor Learning Spaces

Mamaroneck Union Free School District in New York built three outdoor learning spaces spread across their schools including a courtyard reconstruction and several outdoor classrooms with abundant greenery and breakout spaces.

In Bronxville, NY, the District retained LAN to design outdoor learning classrooms in four different areas. The goal of the designs was to provide students with a more modern and wellness-focused educational environment. For most of the classrooms, two large, fixed benches were chosen to seat anywhere between 20 to 30 students. The benches face a large open area that can act as a podium where instructors can stand with students facing them. Another classroom option was designed with solid stone veneer and offers a calm and shady environment to learn. The District will begin construction on the first outdoor learning classroom this fall.

Other districts such as Gloucester City, NJ, Oakland, NJ, and Goshen, NY are also in various phases of developing outdoor learning areas. For more information on the benefits of outdoor learning spaces check out our guide to outdoor learning best practices.

HVAC Projects Are Driven Regionwide by Funding Opportunities

Driven by a number of state and federal funding programs, school districts across the tri-state area have been updating their HVAC systems. LAN’s Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineering (MEP) Department has already worked alongside several districts that applied for and used grant funding from initiatives like New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program’s School and Small Business Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification and Repair Program (SSB-VEEVR), Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), and American Rescue Plan (ARP) to cover a significant portion of the cost upgrade their heating and air conditioning, as well as to increased ventilation and improve indoor air quality. You can read about LAN’s recent work helping districts get HVAC projects built through grant funding opportunities here.

What We Are Seeing Across All Our K-12 Educational Projects:

Significant educational facility projects ranging from school additions to capital improvements have ramped up over the last few years. This is due partly to funding opportunities, but it is also indicative of a shift in what is needed from the K-12 built environment. While practical projects like HVAC replacements have provided schools with healthier environments, schools are also investing in wellness spaces, outdoor learning environments, athletic facilities, and more specialized spaces like STEAM labs, culinary arts labs, and collaborative spaces. This is being driven by an effort to match the demands of evolving school curricula. The way students are being educated is shifting and facility design is shifting alongside it.     

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