Freedom Area Breaks Ground for New Elementary School

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The Freedom Area School District has broken ground for a new Elementary School.  The $11.6 million construction project will provide a state-of-the-art educational facility for the District’s youngest students and consolidate its school buildings onto a single campus, joining the District’s Senior High School and Middle School buildings.

The District’s Board of Education was joined by its Administration, Elementary and Middle School student representatives, and PTA and community leaders, to celebrate the start of construction on Tuesday evening.

“We want to thank so many people for helping us reach this day,” said Barbara Heyman, the President of the Freedom Area School District School Board.  “We have worked diligently for many years to get to this point in time.”

“Once we selected an architect, the School Board, Administration, Business Manager, Secretarial Staff, Professional Staff, Custodial and Cafeteria Staff all worked together with the firm and the community to help to make our new elementary building a state-of-the-art school.”

The new building will unify the District’s elementary education program into a single building.

”It is a significant step in continuing the forward movement that the District is making and will be a great asset for the entire community,” said Superintendent, Dr. Jeffrey Fuller.  “By bringing all of our students and staff together onto one campus, it provides us the opportunity to be incredibly flexible in how we provide educational programming to our students. Teachers at each grade level will have the opportunity to collaborate with their grade level peers because they will be separated by 30 feet, instead of being in separate schools at opposite ends of the District.”

The project is the result of a three year community master planning process that was led by VEBH Architects and explored educational and financial strategies to improve the District’s facilities.

The new Freedom Area Elementary School will have 17 full-size classrooms for Head Start, Kindergarten, First and Second grades and will accommodate up to 425 students.  The 59,000 square foot building will have a physical connection to the existing Middle School to create opportunities to share resources between the two buildings.  It will function independent of the Middle School and have its own secure entrance.  The District’s third and fourth grade students will move to classrooms within the current Middle School which was modestly modified over the past summer.

“The Freedom Area Elementary School was conceptualized as a place of comfort and excitement for young students, pre-K through second grade, where technology is integrated in every teaching space and classroom,” said Daniel Engen a principal of VEBH Architects, the project’s planner and lead architect.

A nature-oriented theme developed by the design team was a guide for the creation of a bright, colorful, inspiring learning environment for Freedom Area Elementary.   A “regional biosphere of a sunlit, forested pathway” created with color patterns, interior finishes, and natural light are carried from the public spaces and main corridors into the classrooms.

The theme is reinforced with a live tree growing in the school’s lobby.

Each classroom is designed to create a variety of instruction and activity zones that were defined with the District’s teaching staff.  The zones are created by furniture systems, colors and finishes to accommodate a 21st Century, technology-rich learning environment.

The new building will offer a variety of safety and energy efficient elements.  To secure the building’s main entrance, visitors to the school are directed through the building’s administrative offices during school hours.  Classroom neighborhoods are isolated from public spaces such as the gymnasium and cafeteria to create a secure zone for the students and to permit the public spaces to be used in an energy efficient manner after school hours.

The adjacency of the new Elementary School to the District’s Stadium offered opportunities to create a concession area, restrooms and storage space for the stadium within the new building.

The groundbreaking occurred on May 6 and construction is scheduled to be complete for the start of the 2015/16 school year.

The new building is being financed by the District without the need for a tax increase.

Freedom Area School District serves the Boroughs of Freedom and Conway and New Sewickley Township.  The District provides a quality education for just under 1,500 students.

The District started work with VEBH Architects in 2011 to examine their current buildings.  A series of community workshops identified options for improving the District’s facilities and ultimately defined the path for the consolidation.

VEBH Architects is located in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and has designed educational facilities for more than half a century.  VEBH’s design for the renewal of the Blackhawk School District’s Highland Middle School was recently recognized by the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International as a 2014 Project of Distinction.

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