Jacobs Elementary School
Whole Child; Team Teaching; Learning Community; School as Community Resource; Flexibility and Adaptability; Outdoor Learning and Connections; and Sustainability.
400 student, K-5 school. New construction, three-story, 74,000 SF, completed 2018.
Fabrication Labs, Flexible Classroom Neighborhoods, Break-Out Nooks, Multi-Purpose Spaces, and Science Labs. LEED Gold target designation.
William W. Caudill Citation, Top Prek-12 School, 2019 American School & University Architectural Portfolio
This playful and inviting new PK-5 school adds renewed life to New Bedford’s South End, while also providing a welcoming and sorely needed community resource for its largely immigrant population of students and families.
A new home was a long time coming for the students of this portion New Bedford’s South End peninsula. After their old school closed in 2006 due to a roof collapse, students were transferred to a temporary site for what turned out to be a period of more than 11 years. While the school’s students and families, more than 60% of whom are English language learners, made do with their temporary status, they also took advantage of a Mass School Building Authority Feasibility Study Grant to completely re-envision their school program and its new facility. At the top of their priority list was the desire to create a welcoming, enriching and child-centered learning environment that would offer a wide variety of hands-on learning venues, be flexible enough to grow with them over the years, and serve as resource to parents and the larger community.
The new school’s bright color palette was chosen to reflect both the heritage of New Bedford’s Portuguese and Cape Verdean families, as well as the city’s rich whaling history. A family resource room located adjacent to the school’s administrative area, serves as a meeting and support venue for parents, many of whom speak limited English. Wide and visually open hallways make wayfinding throughout the school easy and safe, while community grade clusters contain sets of paired classrooms with movable walls between them to promote team teaching and adjacent tutorial spaces for specialized and small group instruction.
The cafetorium/multi-purpose space, gym and music classroom can all be accessed through a separate community entry which can be locked off from the school’s academic wing. Sustainable and durable materials have been used throughout, with graphics and signage that serve to teach students and visitors about the building’s materials and systems. A third-floor art room and makerspace both open out onto a roof garden with planting beds, weather stations and spectacular views of adjacent Buzzard’s Bay.
The Educational Planning for the Jacobs Elementary School was particularly important because many faculty members from original school had recently left, and the new incoming principal came with a very aspirational and transformational vision for the school. Knowing that building is “not the change,” but rather the programs and people within it, it was essential to find common ground and articulate a shared vision for the new academic program and facility that would