The Woonsocket Middle School system was experiencing a loss of student enrollment due to the poor physical condition of the facilities, and severe overcrowding created many challenges, including significant behavioral problems amongst students. This project provided an opportunity for the first new educational "model middle school" in Rhode Island. The plan relocated the 1,760 middle school population and 200 faculty, staff, and administrators from the existing facility into two independent buildings, 128,000 sq. ft. each, on the same site.
Ai3's proposed approach included dividing the student population in half by creating two independent schools on the same campus; thereby promoting smaller schools, and even smaller "schools-within-the-schools". The solution included dedicated space for parent and community integration and specific opportunities for collaborative planning among teachers and students. It also offered administrators the flexibility to operate the school in teams or houses, depending on their specific educational ideologies.
The schools-within-schools organization allowed the original student body of 1,760 pupils to be broken down into 6 smaller schools (3 in each building) of approximately 295 students. The newly created educational environment also included noise zoning strategies and reduced travel distances; thereby creating quiet academic zones and less time required for movement between major program areas such as student dining, gymnasium, and library/media areas.
A second major challenge faced by the project was its location; the ideal location in terms of proximity to the surrounding neighborhood was the downtown center. However, the only available properties in this area included a series of riverfront parcels which had multiple owners, conditions, and levels of contamination. Ultimately, all parcels were procured, cleaned up to the very highest standards, and the two new middle schools were able to occupy a prominent and beautiful downtown location on the riverfront.
The final project received overwhelming support from the Mayor, City Council, and School Department for its success in providing an outstanding 21st Century educational environment for students while simultaneously redeveloping and rejuvenating a critical and valuable downtown area. After the school opened in 2009, test scores increased, teacher retention improved, student enrollment increased, and behavioral issues declined. The entire project is considered a "Model" for 21st Century middle school environments AND a "Model" for successful downtown redevelopment.
Woonsocket RI  |  New Facilities  |  128,000 sf each