A New School Design With Our Students in Mind

A New School Design With Our Students in Mind

At Spero Academy, our students are at the heart of everything we do. We want to ensure that every single student feels safe, secure and welcome when they walk into school each day. That’s why we take so much pride in our individualized approach to education. Our mission has always been to build a school where a child’s learning is as unique as the child is.

We’ve already seen so much success developing a community of teachers, faculty and families that help bring our mission to life. Now, our building is going to mirror this mission as well.

As you likely already know, we are in the process of building a brand new facility which will be the new home of Spero Academy. This building is no exception to our student-first approach. Given that many of the students who attend Spero Academy have a heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, we have worked with experts throughout the design process to ensure that the building will offer support to our students in the same way our teachers and faculty do.

When it comes to designing schools for children with heightened sensitivity -- autism in particular -- designers must lead with an empathy-first mentality. That’s what we focused on when creating our new space. Here are a few things that we prioritized when developing our building plans:

  • Lighting: Whether a person has autism or not, bringing in natural light is known to help energize people. The new building allows for lots of natural light to come in from overhead, but avoids too many ground-level windows, since the outside world can often be distracting. In the spaces where there is artificial lighting, and make sure that all of our lighting will be adjustable/dimmable.

  • Sensory Zoning:The overall floor plan of the school was inspired by a sensory-sensitive design consideration which suggests that children with autism tend to be more comfortable in spaces zoned according to “high-stimulus” and “low-stimulus” qualities, a system called “sensory zoning.” By distinctly separating high-stimulus zones from low-stimulus zones with transition zones in between, children are able to adjust their senses as they move from one zone to the next. To design for the student population at Spero Academy, we divided the school into sensory zones, separating the high-stimulus, low-focus areas such as the gym, cafeteria, entrance, and gathering areas from the high-focus, low-stimulus zones such as the classrooms, media lab, speech room, specialist rooms, and restrooms. Sensory zoning occurs in the classrooms as well.  Each activity within the classroom is allocated to a “station” that is physically distinguished from other areas of the room through changes in furniture, flooring and lighting levels appropriate to the “station’s” function.

  • Color and Texture: A key objective of the design for the new building was to eliminate distraction. For many Spero students, bright color can be something that makes it difficult for them to focus. Our new space will be full of subdued colors, offering calm and comfort to our students particularly in dedicated “low-stimulus” areas. We’re also paying special attention to the textures of floors, walls and furniture as they’re being placed in the building as we know certain textures can be bothersome to some of our students.

We are scheduled to begin the 2018-2019 school year in the new building and couldn’t be more excited. We’re confident that our students will love the space and quickly feel comfortable there.

We know that change can be a challenge and often brings up questions or concerns. Our door is always open, so please let us know if you think there is anything specific we should be aware of as it relates to your child or your family and our transition to the new space.

You can read more about our building from the designers themselves, here.