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LESSONS LEARNED:
+ It is essential to engage all decision makers creating the solution.  The presence of the mayor, superintendent of schools, and their architect at the table was crucial to the outcome.
+
Look for opportunities to share facilities between the school and community.
+ Funding may come from a variety of sources; Pass Christian’s solution  leverages monies from FEMA, and grants from Qatar and Chevron.
+ Evaluate the operating hours and program needs of combined civic facilities. The school and Boys & Girls Club, for example, operate during offsetting times making joint-use easier.
+ The best solutions provide advantages to all stakeholders. The Boys & Girls Club provided a gym to the school, while the school offered it access to a performing space, kitchen, and dining facilities. Moving the library provided the school with a resource while opening up space at the town hall.
+ Each activity in a school does not necessarily need its own space; combine uses if appropriate.
+ Consider outdoor space as if it  is another room in the school; design it to be usable as a gathering or performance space.
+ Learning space can be developed like office space; it can be cost-effective to construct it as “core-and-shell” and allow it to be finished later as it needed and budgets allow.
Building Great K-12 Schools in Economically Challenging Times
In these tough times making good school design decisions has never been more difficult or more important. To find out how some of the nation’s top architects and administrators are coping with these challenges attend Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century Symposium. It will be held Friday, April 9th, at the Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago, the day before the NSBA Conference. The event is free of charge and is being presented with the support of McGraw-Hill Education and the American Architectural Foundation.

Click here for more information.

Community Campus Plan
Pass Christian School District, Pass Christian, Mississippi
A new education center will make the most of scarce post-Katrina resources.
By Charles Linn, FAIA

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Pass Christian is a community on the Gulf Coast just east of Bay St. Louis . It is about 30 miles east of the Louisiana border. Its population is about 3,200, about half what it was before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A 14-acre site one block from the Gulf of Mississippi will hold the children of Pass Christian and those who teach them. The site once held the “old high school” which was, most recently, Pass Christian Middle School. All that remains of that building are floor slabs, and the grand live oaks that refused to succumb to the winds and water of the hurricane. These oaks and the history of this proud community make this site appropriate for the teaching of children. Pass Christian is a community of people who care for each other, and choose to work together to rebuild. Although Katrina tore this community to shreds, it could not destroy the heart of these people. They will fight to rebuild not just the buildings but also the soul of their community, known as “The Pass.”


Seated: Tom Blurock, FAIA, Thomas Blurock Architects; Gary Bailey, AIA, JBHM Architects. Standing: Meridith Bang, K-5 principal; Christian Pass Mayor Leo McDermott; Jim LaPosta, AIA, JCJ Architecture, and Pass Christian school district superintendent Sue Matheson, Ed.D. Photo © Bryan Becker.

The Challenge
A new K-8 school in design development for the site was expected to replace an elementary and middle school destroyed by the hurricane. The proposed “learning village,” included six academic houses with shared space for administration, dining, and a media center. It was projected to accommodate 750 to 800 students initially, and 1,000 at some time in the future. Unfortunately, the design was 10,000 square feet over FEMA’s allowances, meaning that federal funding might only cover construction of two of the six academies. A local bond issue to make up the difference was not feasible. This shortfall lead the team to completely reevaluate this approach to the design of the school.

The Solution
The opportunity provided by the massive rebuilding of Pass Christian following Hurricane Katrina led the team to a discussion of the number and type of community buildings that were to be replaced. A serious discussion of alternatives was made possible by the presence at the charrette of the Mayor of Pass Christian, Leo McDermott, and Dr. Sue Matheson, Superintendent of Schools. The team quickly agreed that while plans to build the school should be retained, the best way to resolve the budget issues was to combine other facilities on the site to create a community complex with “critical mass.” Such a place would become a symbol of the town’s rebirth, leverage funding, and free other land for expanded facilities elsewhere.

One commodity in short supply in post-Katrina Pass Christian is buildable land. New FEMA maps placed much of the southern portion of The Pass below flood elevation and made its use for public buildings problematic and expensive. The school site was an exception and one of the few high spots in the immediate area.

A comparison of the school’s program with needed community facilities led to some obvious connections. The school had proposed a combined gymnasium-performance space. This was clearly a significant expenditure of funds for a space that, when combined, would not perform either function particularly well. At the same time, Pass Christian’s Boys & Girls Club of America had recently received a large grant from the nation of Qatar, and was planning to rebuild its destroyed facility on a former school site below the new flood elevation. Relocating the club to the school’s site could provide the school with a double gymnasium, and allow the club to redirect its funds from sitework to construction of its building. It was also possible that the proximity and availability of the school’s kitchen, cafeteria, and classrooms might allow the club to offer additional programs.

The town’s library was also heavily damaged in the storm and in need of complete restoration. Prior to the storm, the library was located within the town hall, which led to crowded conditions for both facilities. Moving the library to the school site would provide the town hall with breathing room, and reduce the need for the school to fund a school library. Collateral benefits included greater opportunities for intergenerational learning and convenience for after-school library programs.

The final change the resource team recommended was the inclusion of an new early childhood education center. The Chevron Corporation had offered to construct this facility if the town provided the site. The addition of the preschool facility to the K-8 school, public library, and Boys & Girls Club site, meant that the community complex could serve birth-age children up to senior adults.

The final site plan the team developed places the Boys & Girls Club on the north portion of the site, replacing the previously proposed school gym. The town library occupies the southwest corner of the site, a location that allows a civic face and separate parking, while providing direct access for students from the school’s central courtyard. The early childhood center was proposed for the southeastern corner of the property. The courtyard itself was replanned so it is now a large civic space, with access from the street through a ceremonial arch. A performance space was added to the redesigned cafeteria-auditorium at the site’s north end.