Boards Preview SHS Renderings

Ahead of an expected June 5 town presentation on the plans for Sandy Hook Elementary School, representatives of Svigals + Partners unveiled some of the first renderings of the new building during a Public Building & Site and Board of Education joint meeting Wednesday, May 14.

The plans for the new school were first unveiled at a joint meeting between the two boards on February 11. At that meeting Julia McFadden, an associate principal with Svigals + Partners and the project manager for the Sandy Hook School project, explained meetings had been held with community members through workshops and interviews, tours had been conducted of recently built schools in the state, and all of those were used to design three possible configurations for the new school.

Of the three designs, the “Main Street Scheme” was the resounding favorite, and this week further workings of that scheme were shared.

“What you’ll see tonight is finally some pretty pictures of what the building will look like on the exterior and in the interior,” Ms McFadden said.

A few issues remain to be worked out with how the site is accessed, according to Ms McFadden, and a courtyard design workshop was just held last week. Some of the ideas were worked into a rendering shared during Wednesday’s meeting, but, Ms McFadden, said those were “the bones of some of those ideas.”

Jay Brotman of Svigals + Partners presented a topographic design for the layout of the property, with the school farther back on the site than it was before. He explained that as cars approach the building, at the highest part of the expected drive, people will see “the arms [of the school] outreaching and embracing you as you come in.”

The building is planned to have one long “main street” corridor with wings, or streets, off of it for different grade level classrooms.

Mr Brotman pointed out where the planned rain garden, the main entrance, the prekindergarten entrance, and the gymnasium will be situated. He also said sunlight is expected to flood the space, where plants and children will grow.

Alana Konefal of Svigals + Partners also highlighted different parts of the design that have been altered since the plans were last presented to the Public Building & Site Commission and the Board of Education. When students enter the building, she said, thanks to a wide expansive glass area, they will see the central courtyard beyond the school.

The planned “tree house” spaces on the second floor of the school were also shown in the renderings. Originally the tree houses, areas at the end of wings for children to read or have small gatherings with teachers, were also on the bottom floors of the school. The tree houses are now planned for the second floor wings, where the upper grade levels will be situated.

Before Svigals + Partners Company Principal Barry Svigals shared the first four renderings of the school, he said, “We’re excited about how this is developing.”

Mr Svigals said it was hard to decide which images to make renderings of.

“It’s not about a single money shot,” said Mr Svigals. “It is about how [the students] are going to feel coming in.”

The four images shared, Mr Svigals said, are touchstones of how students will feel when approaching the school. The images showed the school at a distance, spread out across the horizon; the main entrance of the school, with buses pulled up to drop students off; the main lobby perspective, with students milling around; and the main courtyard perspective, with an amphitheater.

The school will first present itself as people approach it, Mr Svigals said. As they go closer, a rain garden would appear before the school.

“Their first experience coming in the school really is a reconnection with the natural environment,” Mr Svigals said.

A “bridge,” or raised walkway, would lead the students to the main entrance, with the rain garden on either side, according to the rendering.

According to both Mr Svigals and Ms McFadden, Svigals + Partners is working on a theme of water for the school. 

The partnerships with the town and community, Ms McFadden said, have been helpful in developing work on the project. A new partnership has recently been formed, with the University of Connecticut and the town of Newtown, to apply for a federal security grant, according to Ms McFadden.

“This particular grant program calls for a partnership between a school entity and a research institution of some type to conduct a study of the effectiveness of these various security measures,” Ms McFadden explained.

Mr Svigals said a number of things included in the renderings are still being worked out, like what design will be used to filter light through windows in the back of the school while still allowing students full views of the courtyards and woods beyond.

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