The Sidwell Friends faculty and staff started the school year by helping to design a new future.
Faculty and staff spent last Tuesday working with architects and designers from Perkins Eastman, the firm selected to design the new Upper School (read more). The project is a significant part of the strategic priority to unify our campus, as described in the School’s Strategic Action Plan, Lead in the Light.
The Upton Street property, which currently houses the School Advancement and Communications departments, will be renovated and converted into a new Upper School—expected to be completed in 2024 depending on fundraising. Ultimately, after the Upper School renovation phase has been completed, the second campus master plan will entail a larger redesign of the campus, which among other things calls for eventually bringing the Lower School to the Wisconsin Avenue campus. The Lower School will move into the Harrison Building, which now houses the Upper School; Harrison will be extensively renovated for the Lower School, bringing in more natural light, adding new play areas, and creating innovative learning spaces that meet the needs of the School’s youngest students.
In creating a new space for the Upper School, Perkins Eastman turned to the experts—the community itself. After the Opening School Faculty and Staff Meeting for Business that gave an overall sense of the plan, small groups of faculty, staff, and administrators took a walking tour of the Wisconsin Avenue campus, with Perkins Eastman designers giving a sense of what the future holds. Afterward, faculty and staff participated in small-group workshops focused on three of the five guiding concepts—Teaching and Learning, Environmental Sustainability, and Student Health and Wellness. The other two concepts are Creating a Caring Community and Promoting Simplicity, Integrity and Other Quaker Ideals. The Middle School will remain in its LEED Platinum-certified building, but new outdoor renovations will better connect it to the rest of property, creating an open-air heart of the campus.
In those sessions, faculty and staff voiced their ideas for the to-be-renovated buildings and new outdoor spaces. Participants described their ideal classrooms (more storage and versatility), tossed out ideas for how new green spaces such as interior courtyards might integrate nature with education, and discussed what environmentally sustainable practices could be incorporated into the future makeup of the School, all while the Perkins Eastman team facilitated discussions and took notes—a lot of notes.
As the new school year begins and as the design phase moves forward, Perkins Eastman will continue to meet with small groups including parents and alumni. When it comes to unifying the Sidwell Friends community, the conversations are just beginning.