Somerset Intermediate School
Several years ago, as we prepared to build the first new educational facility in our school system in 30 years, I stood as superintendent and said to potential architects, “We are seeking a high tech, enduring, state of the art learning facility for the children of a conservative rural, poor community.” I was adamant that we neededâ€”and our children deserved–a facility that planned for the future and was relevant to a generation that has grown up immersed in media and technology. The architects heard our dreams and expectations and created a building that takes the breath away of our students and staff. As our students took their initial tours, they couldn’t believe their eyes and asked “Is this really for us?” As our parents visited, they said, “We want to come back to school.” Our staff are pleased with their natural light filled rooms, high tech Promethean Boards, audit enhancement, and telecommunications lab and outstanding science labs. Most importantly, they are seeing the difference that it is making for our students and their learning. The daily broadcasts are run by the students who thrive in their beautiful media center. The art teacher and band teacher see the wonderful impact that their well designed classrooms have on student performance. Our School Board, our community, our parents, our staff, and our students feel privileged to have this school in their county, and believe it is an outstanding school and an example for the state.
-Superintendent of Schools
What exemplary ideas do the designs contain that enhance learning?
The school is enriched with natural daylight, a geothermal heating and air conditioning system, and other sustainable features that minimize the operating costs and make for a healthy learning environment. The building is in close proximity to major bodies of water, and is situated between farmland and wetlands. The site backs up to a branch of the nearby river, which will allow the school to offer outside education at a future pavilion and nearby canoe dock. Exterior doors from the media center lead to a stormwater management pond that will also become a learning tool. Students will decide what indigenous plants will be placed there, and how to attract species, such as butterflies and bluebirds.
What innovations in the planning, programming and design process supported the realization of those exemplary ideas?
Administrators opted to incorporate the latest technology, including Smart Boards, projectors, and audio/sound enhancement in each classroom. The building contains a surveillance system that can be viewed on the classrooms’ Smart Boards, which heightens security.
The front of the building is comprised of the administrative area, guidance and student services, and the dining area. The learning environment was intentionally placed from the main corridor, to the back of the building, and extends all the way to the edge of the site. Windows allow for a clear line of sight from the front entry to the back of the school. This layout was constructed to increase the learning space, enhance security, and allow for easy supervision.