Freedom Area School District Dedicates New Elementary School

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The Freedom Area School District formally dedicated its new Elementary School on Saturday, October 10, 2015.  Students started the school year on September 8th in the building.  The Freedom communities celebrated the project as a part of its homecoming weekend of events..

The $12.1 million construction project creates a state-of-the-art educational facility for the District’s youngest students and consolidates its school buildings onto a single campus.

Representatives of the District’s Board of Education were joined by its Administration, students, and PTA and community leaders, to formally dedicate the building.

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

The new Freedom Area Elementary School has 17 full-size classrooms for Head Start, Kindergarten, First and Second grades and can accommodate up to 425 students.  The 59,000 square foot building is connected to the existing Middle School offering opportunities to share resources between the two buildings.  The Elementary School functions independent of the Middle School and has its own secure entrance.  The District’s third and fourth grade students were moved to classrooms within the current Middle School which was previously modified to accommodate the additional students.

“The Freedom Area Elementary School was conceptualized to be a stimulating educational environment that excites its young students about learning.  With the support of the District’s School Board and administrative team, we designed a 21st century learning environment where technology is seamlessly integrated and teaching spaces maintain flexible relationships,” 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 floral and other nature-inspired patterns, interior finishes, and natural light are carried from the public spaces and main corridors into the classrooms.  The design provides students with an exciting introduction to the District’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) based educational program

The theme is reinforced with a live tree growing in the school’s lobby which was inspired by the mammoth oak tree that has stood as a rally point and landmark on the Freedom Area School District’s campus for decades.

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

The new building offers a variety of safety and energy efficient elements.  A secure main entrance, directs visitors 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 more public spaces like the gymnasium, cafeteria, and community room to be used in an energy efficient manner after school hours.

The building is designed with a number of sustainable features to provide long-term operational savings for the District.  Environmental monitors and sensors efficiently control the building’s heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied, or when enough daylight is available through the oversized windows.

Within the new Elementary School are a concession area, restrooms and storage space to support the adjacent Stadium.

The District broke ground for the new building on May 6, 2014 and the year and a half of construction was substantially completed for the start of the 2015/16 school year.  With the opening of the new Elementary School, the District closed separate elementary buildings in Conway and New Sewickley Township.

The new building was 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.  A series of community workshops identified options for improving the District’s facilities and ultimately defined the path for the consolidation of the elementary schools into a single building on the District’s High School – Middle School campus.

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 recognized by the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) as a 2014 Project of Distinction.  The Highland Middle School project was also awarded the AIA Pittsburgh Chapter’s “People’s Choice Award” as a result of the strong support of the Blackhawk community.

VEBH is currently working with more than a dozen local schools and school districts in Southwestern PA.

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