Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Glen Avon Protestant School, St. Paul, Alberta, Canada

Exemplary design categories: comfort, flexible learning settings, outdoor spaces, safety

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
As the school is situated in a residential area, several features were incorporated in order to blend into the community including a lower scale, peaked roofs and residential finishes all of which provide a more “home like” quality. Full consideration was given towards flexibility, low maintenance, and occupant health and safety. Special attention was given to ensuring hand wash stations and water fountains in every classroom, along with modern air exchange and HVAC systems. There was specific emphasis on promoting a safe and caring environment. The school has excellent sight lines for supervision with no blind areas. Washrooms also have an open concept. As we are in a northern region, it is important to maximise natural light during the winter months and the school makes excellent use of natural lighting in all areas. Traffic is also well planned including a separate bus lane and two parent drop-off loops that permit smooth traffic flow while allowing easy access to entrances for students. While Glen Avon School has many innovative design features, the school is a perfect example of fitness for purpose and how a facility can support today’s education needs. The design was based on flexibility and meeting evolving educational methods including embracing technology. A few examples include dedicated spaces for early and middle literacy, and breakout rooms next to each classroom to accommodate differentiated and special instruction. On the technological side, every classroom is equipped with interactive Smartboard technology and FM soundfield system. There is wireless access throughout the school, and a large sub-dividable multipurpose technology lab for multimedia instruction, videoconferencing and specialised instruction. Science labs are set up to double as project-based learning suites. The school is divided into three separate wings for the K-3, 4-6 and 7-9 grade levels. Each wing has its own separate entrance with direct access to the playground areas. An axial, “hub and spoke” ties the wings together providing a common area and also maximises visibility throughout the school. The hub is the social heart of the school, with common amenities such as student gathering area, music/drama rooms, gymnasium, library, multi-media suite, food servery and administration suite accessible from this area. Design can play a critical role in promoting inclusive education practices and the school has a special focus on meeting the needs of students with special needs. Classrooms have integrated breakout rooms allowing individualised programming, and there is a full special needs suite that contains a barrier-free washroom (with shower, water closet, change table and lavatory) soft room, life-skills area as well as meeting rooms for inter-agency supports.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
The design committee had representation of all stakeholders including; parent council, trustees, school staff, maintenance personnel, students, school administrators and provincial department representatives. The committee discussed programmatic and pedagogical needs. In order to establish a framework of objectives for the design work, the following topics were reviewed: Topic One: Evolving pedagogical methods, and impact of technology on delivery Topic Two: Influence of above on the design of instructional spaces Topic Three: Provisions for students with special needs Topic Four: Gymnasium / physical education amenities Topic Five: General philosophy regarding intrinsic qualities of the school. Several schematic design concepts were developed to meet the space requirements outlined by the project advisory committee. These planning studies were vetted and refined until the final program was agreed upon.

Activity Areas: 20 regular classrooms, library, technology and video conference suite, music room, band room, stage, student gathering area, computer lab, two art rooms , two science labs, break out rooms, outdoor learning patio with views to the adjacent lake, and a large two station gymnasium.

Project costs: CDN 14,359,383.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (1)

The school is a showcase of how a building can help support instruction. The varied spaces and technological features facilitate differentiated instruction. The wing structure of the school allows the school to feel smaller than it is and is very welcoming to all. When asked to comment, the school principal perhaps said it best when she stated: “it’s the perfect environment for student learning”. An instructional assistant remarked that the break out rooms facilitate differentiated instruction and provide a private space that maintains student dignity. The community has shown tremendous pride in the school and provided significant volunteer contributions towards landscaping and playground development. As educators, we know that teachers are the most important factor in a successful school. A building such as Glen Avon School removes irritants such as poor indoor air quality, difficult supervision, crowding and technology limitations that were present in the previous building. A school such as this allows teachers to focus on teaching and gives them the resources to uphold the school motto of “being the best you can be”.
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Images (4)

Drawings (5)

Elevation (Registration required)
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Credit: The Workun Garrick Partnership
Eastern Perspective (Registration required)
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Credit: The Workun Garrick Partnership
Floorplan 1 (Registration required)
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Credit: The Workun Garrick Partnership
Floorplan 2 (Registration required)
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Credit: The Workun Garrick Partnership
Site Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: The Workun Garrick Partnership