Littlestown Area School District wanted to bolster their central campus by providing shared resources through a new combined secondary school. They also wanted to expand early childhood education programming. By upgrading facilities to be equitable for all, the District hoped to prepare students for life in the 21st century. A district wide feasibility study was the first step towards realizing their objectives. It also provided a firm plan for moving forward.
District Wide Feasibility Study
The feasibility study assessed the District’s school buildings: one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. The facilities evaluated a total of 440,000+ SF on over 114 acres of property and serve approximately 2,200 students. The assessment indicated that the middle school required numerous improvements to meet current facility and educational needs. The evaluation also revealed that the high school had additional capacity available for curriculum use but needed renovations typical for a building of its age.
Starting the Process with Community Involvement
From the outset, the Design Team and School District directly engaged the Littlestown community as a part of the feasibility study. A community survey, focus group sessions and staff discussions aided information gathering. Enrollment projection analysis, building capacity evaluation, assessment of the existing facilities, and Steering Committee input in addition to the community feedback were used in compiling the study.
From Feasibility Study to Long-Range Plans
Seven options developed for District review included a mix of architectural scenarios:
- combined middle school / high school
- new middle school built next to high school
- new high school with middle school moving to the existing high school
After reviewing study results and further discussion, the District implemented a long-range plan for updating the facilities. The plan includes additions and renovations to the existing high school building to create a new secondary school. Once the secondary school updates are complete, the middle school building will be used in a different capacity. The feasibility study also presented options for its use. The plan also includes direction for upgrades to athletic facilities, the central maintenance building and the mechanical systems at the District’s elementary school.
“We have been working with RLPS on a secondary school project for over two years. They have followed through on their promise to be customer service oriented, attentive to the multiple constituent groups and above all, very responsive to the needs of the Littlestown Area School District.”
Mr. Christopher Bigger, Superintendent of Schools / Littlestown Area School District
Muhlenberg College’s Career Center features a mix of offices, flexible meeting spaces, and impromptu gathering spaces. The new Career Center is part of the expansion and enhancement of The J. Conrad and Hazel J. Seegers Union.
Conceptual Planning for Capital Campaigning
Muhlenberg College’s long-range plans included making updates to The J. Conrad and Hazel J. Seegers Union building. To begin the process, RLPS collaborated with College representatives to collect data on Muhlenberg’s functional space and programming needs. With information collected during the focus groups and design charrettes, we conceptually designed a 42,000-square foot addition that featured a mix of classrooms, offices, flexible meeting spaces and impromptu gathering spaces. The design helped garner the largest single personal gift in the College’s history.
Expanding into the Future
The planned expansion and renovation was envisioned to be a home for the College’s Career Center and provide more robust professional development programs to both students and alumni. A combination of multi-functional gathering spaces, virtual interview rooms, and technology-ready seminar and training rooms were designed for a dynamic and vibrant setting. Both internal resources and community business connections would be able to utilize these areas.
Located at the corner of Chew Street and Academic Row, the building offers an inviting entry to encourage student engagement. Glass walls at the ground level highlight the activity space and celebrate the active engaging space. Along the Chew Street elevation, a terrace was designed to emphasize indoor/outdoor connections.
Career Center Design Features Flexibility
Many unique common areas were designed with flexible furniture, soft seating, and interactive technology to foster a variety of working environments. Students and alumni from all disciplines could work independently or with others. The meeting rooms and seminar spaces also support and enhance the Career Center’s experiential programs.
Rossmoyne Elementary is the first school to be built following the completion of the feasibility study for West Shore School District. Rossmoyne is a new elementary school built beside the previous 1950s-era school. The existing building was demolished upon completion of the new larger Kindergarten through Fourth grade elementary school. The new building includes a robust technology infrastructure with wireless internet access throughout the building for the latest classroom visualization and 21st Century learning needs.
The new building includes enlarged and updated spaces which enhance the day-to-day educational activities in the school. Several of these spaces were also designed with community functions in mind. These areas reinforce the intent to provide the District and its residents with schools that are active and connected to the community.
Measures to provide enhanced security for students, staff, and visitors include controlled building access points, a secure entrance vestibule adjacent to the new administration suite and cross-corridor doors that can separate community functions from the classroom areas of the building. The site includes separate drop-off areas for parents and busses. These separate traffic loops improve safety by segregating the busses from other vehicular traffic.
All classrooms have lower window sills allowing students to see outside. The larger windows bring more daylight into the classrooms. These windows play a large role in lighting the classrooms, as all classrooms have natural light instead of solely relying on artificial lighting.
The building is divided into two levels within the classroom wing; shared common spaces, such as the library, administration areas and nurse suite are located on the first floor. The gymnasium doubles as the auditorium and has an integrated stage. The First through Fourth grade classrooms are organized in stacked two-story classroom wings. The First and Second Grade are on the first floor located directly below Third and Fourth Grade. Large and small group instruction areas are incorporated into the classroom wings. Art, Music, STEAM, Guidance, and the Learning Commons are all located in the main connecting areas of the building.
The West Shore School District’s Director of Operations and Planning and Rossmoyne Elementary School’s principal sat down with RLPS Project Manager, Erin Hoffman, ALEP. They discuss what went into creating a flexible, future-ready elementary school and some of the building’s key features.
Campus Master Plan
Campus master planning for the 283,000 square foot, multi-level high school building and 50-acre site focused on updating and right-sizing spaces to better support enrollment, curriculum, and athletic programs. The final plan envisions $34 million of campus-wide updates to be incorporated in multiple phases of construction.
Client Involvement in the Campus Master Planning Process
Master planning began with a series of visioning sessions with the steering team and teachers/athletics staff. To refine program goals based on current best practices, these sessions included a collaborative presentation and discussion of educational facility trends and review of the local educational market. Design concepts were then presented at two design charrettes. The steering team was integral to this collaborative review process, providing regular input and guidance for program direction and plan refinements. The final master plan concepts were consolidated into a comprehensive report and formally presented to the board of directors. The report provided the framework for long-range campus master planning initiatives, as well as documentation of Phase 1 priorities, design concepts and cost estimates.
Defining Program Goals for Future Viability
The steering committee established a baseline for enrollment, educational curriculum and athletic program goals moving forward into the future. The committee reviewed overarching goals for how to deliver education and holistic student well-being. The discussions tied into teaching philosophies, opportunities for future ready learning programs and implementing tools to meet the needs of the whole student, not just at the educational level. A concurrent assessment of the existing buildings identified infrastructure needs to be addressed in conjunction with facility updates to improve accessibility, define operational issues and achieve program goals.
A Campus Master Plan Framework for Multi-Phased Updates
The final master plan is organized into smaller, attainable projects and program changes culminating in a comprehensive set of defined updates. The steering committee established immediate needs and long- range goals through the charrette process which helped to establish the overall educational speciﬁcations. Requirements were set for each department and approach to the overall facility and campus. The campus master plan solution establishes campus ministry, engineering/robotics, IT/AV, Large Group / Small Group, maker space and arts neighborhoods to reinforce those educational priorities. A building addition will pave for the way for a new Retreat Center and the learning commons will be reconfigured into an adaptable social hub for a variety of learning styles and gathering opportunities. Other improvements, such as a new elevator and entry experience, address current accessibility, wayfinding and security issues. An expansion to the gymnasium/arts building will allow for a new cardio and weightlifting suite. Site improvements include a fitness trail, tennis courts, stadium turf field and archery range.
New Upper School and Community Spaces
Logos Academy, an independent, Christ-centered school in York, Pennsylvania, started with 14 kindergarten and first-grade students. It has since grown to welcome approximately 275 students and their families regardless of faith or financial capacity in grades K-12. With the program growth including grades 9-12, Logos Academy needs a new, larger home for its Upper School as well as additional campus amenities for its growing community. Through renovations and additions on an adjacent building site, Logos Academy will have an expanded campus that will have the ability to house up to 200 additional students, along with community spaces to support the diverse downtown community which surrounds it.
The expansion will provide much-needed space for high school instruction, as well as the health and physical education program for K-12 students, and community space for events and meetings. Logos Academy will gain instructional space for visual arts, a fully equipped science lab, and additional office spaces. Furthermore, 10 classrooms will be returned to the original K-8 facility, allowing the Lower School to serve more students.
Finding Space for 200 High School Age Students in an Urban Setting
Bounded by public roads and urban infrastructure, the new home for the upper school and community spaces is right across the street from the Logos Academy lower school. The design concept had to work within a limited footprint to provide an engaging learning environment. Care was also given so that the new building expanded Logos Academy’s existing campus and respected the surrounding community fabric.
Previously, the buildings on the adjacent site housed a former YMCA gymnastics program, warehouse space, a gas station, and a Cadillac car dealership. This dealership was built in the 1930s with a distinctive Art Deco showroom facade, one of the last surviving building facades of this style in downtown York. Logos Academy intends to salvage this historic showroom architecture transforming the space into a central gathering space for its campus and outside community groups.
Creating Contemporary Learning Spaces in Historic Structures
Through renovation and new construction, Logos Academy will breath new life into this urban property. When completed, the historic building will house new classrooms, a fully equipped science lab and creator space along with a new academic support office space. New portions of the building will include a full-size gymnasium, gallery and a student café which will flow through operable doors into an outdoor urban garden.
The classroom areas within the historic building will house a fully equipped science lab and creator space as well as academic classrooms. These spaces will be oriented around a sky-lit, central student forum space which will allow incidental collaboration between students and their professors. The classrooms will be flexible with movable walls and visual connections to the central forum. The classroom design is driven by Logos Academy’s commitment to a classical education model with features such as Harkness tables incorporated into the design.
Maintaining Connections with York City
Because Logos Academy is located in downtown York, PA, the design reflects the academy’s commitment to the urban community and the activities expected to take place on the expanded campus. To serve as a downtown resource, specific public-use spaces include the gallery, community room, gymnasium, café and urban garden. This connection, as well as student and staff safety, was key in designing the school with appropriate adjacencies and access. The classroom wing within the historical building, where students spend most of their time, has the ability to be separated from public functions which may be taking place in the community areas of the building.
Assisting with Innovative Funding Sources and City Approvals
The RLPS team is working with multiple project partners to pursue funding to make Logos Academy’s vision a reality. Potential funding sources include the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program, a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant, a York County Community Foundation Sustainability Grant, and a grant from the York County Land Bank Authority. RLPS is also committed to develop project specifications that support the Logos Academy Equity Management Plan.
We provided concept renderings for Logos Academy’s Capitol Campaign for the project. These renderings will also be used in presentations to the City of York’s Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) since the project site is located within a downtown historic district. The renderings will assist in highlighting the art deco façade of the former Cadillac Dealership and illustrate how the renovations and additions blend seamlessly into the surrounding downtown fabric.
AIA Central Pennsylvania – Design Excellence Award of Merit & Good Design is Good Business Award
Creative Renovations Working Inside the Box
Ephrata Area School District needed to reinvent its high school library space to integrate technology and promote collaborative learning experiences. The challenge was to find creative ways to transform the existing space into a new media center and learning commons for Ephrata’s students without stepping too far “outside the box.” Within the space, new areas had to be created that would make it a popular place for students to hang out and study, one that would help Ephrata High School students position themselves for the future.
Fostering Student Engagement
RLPS facilitated a student design competition and a design charrette with a group of Ephrata high school students, the librarian and school administrators. These students, District administrators, and staff members collaborated with RLPS through the process, so that the media center had spaces that reflected the unique culture of Ephrata High School. These students were also able to work with RLPS Interiors to select furnishing, finishes, and equipment to reflect what they needed to make the reinvented spaces their own. The design result was the introduction of informal seating options, several walls being finished with writeable white-board paint and the inclusion of varied group collaboration spaces– some with privacy-providing writeable glass walls and others with open seating options.
Updates encompassed a renovated two-story lobby with stadium-seating steps that facilitate student flow and provide an additional spot for student interaction, as well as a tech lounge where students and staff can get technology assistance from students as part of a technology class curriculum. The main media center space features flexible furniture, allowing for easy adaptation to whatever the future might bring to Ephrata High School. Acoustic clouds on the ceiling provide sound control in the open space, while also acting as an aesthetic feature. The updated media center includes informal study areas, collaboration rooms, a television studio, an e-lab classroom, a circulation desk, and a café, making it ready for 21st century learners. The café, located at the media center entrance, provides an additional revenue source for food services and encourages students to use the media center space before or after school.
AWARD: Outstanding Award for Excellence in Educational Facility Design, Learning By Design
“This is a wonderful example of how to renovate an old fashion high school library to meet modern pedagogy, student taste, contemporary social community customs in multiple cluster oriented, light infused, bright spaces. The learning stairs, the cafe, labs and acoustically appropriate study spots all add to the success of this project. The renovation brings a lively, flexible space into the interior of the building and accommodates informal learning and meeting with new technology capacities.”
-Learning by Design jury panel
Photo Credit: Nathan Cox Photography
Refresh to Better Serve Students
Originally built in the 1950s, Loganville-Springfield Elementary School was in need of a refresh to better serve its kindergarten through third-grade students. A feasibility review was undertaken to determine the best path forward between new construction or additions and renovations to the existing school. The District determined that additions and upgrades, completed through phased construction, was the best option to meet their needs and stay within budget.
The renovated school includes 24 future-ready classrooms and separate dedicated collaboration spaces for each grade level. The center of the building houses the learning commons with an adjacent S.T.E.A.M. classroom and maker space.
Student Safety Considerations
To help with student safety, administrative, common, and public spaces are organized around the main hallway including a new full-size gymnasium, cafeteria, and kitchen. Classroom areas are connected with an education corridor but separate from the more public part of the school. The educational corridor will allow for easy student circulation as well as breakout spaces for the many paraprofessionals and support instructors who directly serve the student population.
“The educational visioning for this campus is an excellent example of the work needed and critical for preparing future spaces where learners thrive. The design allows for active learning and offers and encourages freedom of choice in main functions.”
– Learning By Design Magazine, 2022 Design Awards Showcase Jury Comment
RLPS conducted a facility review of nine elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools, District administration building, transportation center and athletic facilities. The study included enrollment projections and educational programs including options and their impact for realigning grade configurations. The project has moved into the design of both new and renovated schools to support the District’s future plans.
This project expanded Summit Valley Elementary School to accommodate kindergarten through 3rd grade students who were previously housed in a separate facility (the former New Holland Elementary School). Renovations involved relocating and expanding the library and art room, as well as 16 new classrooms, gymnasium and administrative suite. A new mechanical room with a four-pipe mechanical system allows the systems in the new addition to operate without affecting the existing building system.
Photo Credit: Larry Lefever Photograph
Originally designed during the 1970s, the existing building had very few outdoor connections. The design solution added skylights to interior classrooms and created new hallways with views to the playing fields. New areas include a 650-seat cafetorium, kitchen, lobby, administrative suite, garage and freestanding maintenance building. Existing spaces including the natatorium, locker rooms, classrooms, library and district offices were refurbished and reconfigured for greater efficiency and increased natural lighting. Renovations included new HVAC, lighting, plumbing, roof, windows and doors.
Photo Credit: Larry Lefever Photography