Charter Schools Adapt to Circumstance

Public charter schools have a unique opportunity to design creative and functional spaces for students to learn, play and thrive.  Untethered from design requirements set by the Department of Education — but hindered by lack of facilities funding from the state — charter schools are often forced to think outside the box when it comes to building design and function.  Many charter schools are turning to unused buildings to create the spaces they need and want.

Sizemore Group has helped several Georgia charter schools breathe new life into abandoned and forgotten buildings, turning them into beautiful, functional, light-filled learning centers.  These new spaces are not only good for students, they also strengthen whole communities by filling vacant spaces, contributing to local economies and keeping families from moving in search of better schools.

Dekalb-Academy-of-Technology-Exterior-150x150Sizemore Group helped The DeKalb Academy of Technology and the Environment convert a three-story office building into an award-winning addition with classrooms, science labs, a cafeteria and gymnasium. Sizemore Group’s Design-Build team worked with a compressed timeline and budget to create a low energy, low maintenance, day-lit building for students, faculty and staff.

One of our favorite examples of innovation among charter schools is Pataula Charter Academy in Edison, GA, which is running a successful constructivist curriculum out of an old automobile dealership.  When it first started, Pataula Charter Academy’s cafeteria, media center and offices were housed in the original dealership building, with the classrooms built on the paved lots previously used to display cars. As Pataula Charter Academy’s needs grew, the large campus gave them space to expand.

Other charter schools have repurposed churches, abandoned big box stores, shopping malls and other spaces. When modular classrooms proved too costly, Chattahoochee Hills Charter School considered unconventional options, including converting a row of townhouses into a school by adding common staircases, corridors and an elevator off the back of the units.  This scheme could accommodate the charter school’s initial start-up needs – and when its student body outgrew the space, the original developer could convert them back to single family homes.

To learn more about Sizemore Group’s approach to reinventing spaces for charter schools and other education institutions, you can visit sizemoregroup.com.

Tom Sayre is a leading voice in sustainable design practice in the profession. His passion drives the integration of sustainable design across all our market sectors. He has significant expertise in schools and libraries, both system-wide programming and planning and design of facilities and buildings. If you’re interested in learning more, email Tom at TomS@sizemoregroup.com.