Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, designed by the internationally recognized firm Cooper Carry, has opened this school year as the first vertical school in the region. Cooper Carry’s design team overcame several challenges as they converted an abandoned five-story office building into Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) newest campus.
Before the new school was constructed, the existing elementary school was well beyond capacity at 1,400 students, almost half of whom were housed in on-site trailers and modular classrooms. To alleviate the overcrowding, Cooper Carry’s team transformed an abandoned office building, located about a mile from the original school, to house the third, fourth, and fifth grade students.
"We are thrilled to work with the school district and the community to provide creative solutions to accommodate increasing student enrollment and the decreasing availability of real estate on which to build,” said Lauren Perry Ford, architect and leader of the Education Practice Group in Cooper Carry’s Washington office. "We believe vertical school designs will become more popular in our urbanizing communities, and will provide inspiring learning spaces that our students need while preserving more land for outdoor recreation."
Administrative space is located on the ground floor and classrooms are housed on the second through fifth floors. The vertical design organizes groups of classrooms into two-story learning communities that open to common learning areas and an interconnecting stairway.
The school includes a hybrid library/black box theater that spans two floors, a series of exercise and movement rooms, a science lab and TV and video production rooms. The walls in the school are painted with a special coating that allows the entire wall surface to function as a dry erase board. These writable walls allow for more opportunities for formal and informal interactions to support 21st-century learning.
“The design team broke the mold with Bailey’s Upper Elementary School,” said Marie Lemmon, principal of Bailey’s Elementary School. “Five stories of foreclosed offices have transformed into this innovative learning space where students can collaborate in creatively designed community nooks, experiment in a state-of-the-art science lab, and more.”
The second phase of the project will address the site upgrades such as additional outdoor play areas and an enclosed field house.
Bailey’s Upper Elementary marks the second vertical school in Cooper Carry’s K-12 Education Specialty Practice Group’s portfolio. Cooper Carry also designed the $147 million North Atlanta High School, which opened in August 2013. The 800,000-square-foot school accommodates 2,350 students in what was formerly the IBM Corporate Campus in Atlanta. Cooper Carry modified the former office space to meet students’ needs, including creating classrooms, a 600-seat auditorium, a black box theater, large music rooms, and a competition gymnasium as well as a practice gymnasium.