Architects from Perkins Eastman on Wednesday presented three different concepts - a Pathway, a Village and a Campfire scheme, respectively - for the new $44.6 million Charter Oak International Academy.
All three concepts call for construction of the new building to take place in front of the current building, which was opened in the 1920s.
The pathway concept is a more traditional linear scheme that is like a street, according to Mark McCarthy a design principal at Perkins Eastman. The bus drop off is on Flatbush Avenue with the parking lot around the school. The pre-K parking area and walk up is to the right of the building, and there are two separate playscape areas for different age groups.
The orientation is more out toward Flatbush, according to McCarthy, who noted that all three schemes were constrained by having to keep the old building operating while the new building is under construction.
“We have to keep the school up and running during construction,” McCarthy said.
Option 2 - the Village Scheme - is “more particular to how Charter Oak works,” McCarthy said, with classrooms and grade levels operating like neighborhood communities. The grade levels revolve around a central space, with pre-K and the FRC program clustered together. The administrative offices are near the front door.
The building in this option is more toward the center of the site and back where the existing building is, McCarthy said. The main entrance is off Flatbush, with designated bus and parent dropoff loops (the bus loop is on the outside and the parent loop is on the inside).
Pre-K dropoff would also be on Flatbush Avenue, but off away from the parent and bus sites.
The trees around the perimeter of the site would remain, McCarthy said.
The third option - the campfire scheme - drew the most vocal reactions, both positive and negative. It calls for a circular building that creates a sense of community, like a campfire, McCarthy said.
“The nice thing about a circle is you always can reference the center,” McCarthy said.
There would be a loop for parent drop off on Flatbush Avenue, with a small driving lane that connects Flatbush and Sidney for buses to drop off students. The main entrance would face away from Flatbush however, which at least one resident and school employee objected to.
“You are almost turning the school away from the neighborhood,” said Janet Fournier, a Charter Oak employee who lives on Oakwood Avenue.
McCarthy noted that it is still early in the conversation and no decisions had been made in terms of materials or architecture.
“There have been a lot of conversations about how the parts fit together [in terms of programming],” he said. “Each school is a bit different.”
He also said that certain aspects, such as drop off points, are interchangeable, meaning the drop off plan from one scheme could be married to the building plan of another scheme.
All of the plans call for multiple access points, but the architects and school officials said they are mindful of security.
Tom Moore, assistant superintendent of administration, said that there would be multiple access points for public safety officials to get to the building and that the building itself could have a vestibule concept with new security features, such as swipe cards that allow access only to teachers. Anyone else who wants to get into the building would have to go through the main office.
“We can build this from scratch and make it our safest building using everything we have learned through the years,” Moore said.
Board of Education Chairman Bruce Putterman lauded Perkins Eastman for its efforts.
“You guys have done an incredible job of exceeding anything that I was contemplating at all,” he said. “All three concepts are remarkably innovative … We’re off to a really great start. Thank you.”
Still, some Charter Oak parents, while appreciative of the work that has been done thus far, were left believing more needs to be done.
“I came here waiting to see Option 4,” Charter Oak parent Bob Segar said. “I think the plans need tweaking. I’d like to see a hybrid of a couple of concepts. … We have to see a little bit more.”