September 2008 will mark a major milestone for the Bridgeport Public School system and Antinozzi Associates as two elementary schools – one brand new, and one created (and expanded) from a former university residential dormitory – opened to students in the North and South End sections of the City.
Remarkably, the design phase for ‘North End’ Elementary School (subsequently named Geraldine W. Johnson Elementary School) began in late 2003, but was delayed due to the City’s need to purchase adjacent properties to build the school. The project finally went out to bid in the summer of 2006 and was completed in time for the start of the 2008-2009 school year.
South End School, also completed in time for the start of the 2008-2009 school year, is housed in a fully-renovated, and expanded, residential dormitory facility – previously known as Bruell and Rennell Hall – built in 1965 by the University of Bridgeport. Although the facility has housed a number of educational and administrative uses during its lifetime for the University, it will now serve as a swing school for the first several years of city-wide school construction projects and then become a magnet school.
ABOUT GERALDINE W. JOHNSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Geographically, the school site (located at the intersection of North and Lexington Avenues) was extremely challenging due to a 20-foot slope that virtually divided the site into two parts. By creating two buildings consisting of a one-story commons wing and a three-story classroom wing – with a connector between – the Antinozzi Associates design actually took advantage of the slope and grading issues initially encountered.
Architecturally, Geraldine W. Johnson Elementary School, a PreK-8th grade school building, was designed in a series of layers. The Academic Wing, containing the majority of classroom functions, is considered the first layer and was intended to be designed in the same scale and harmony to the surrounding neighborhood. The Common Wing, directly connected to the Academic Wing, includes the gymnasium, media center, cafetorium, and student service center. Additionally, the school was designed to accommodate extensive community use beyond typical school hours.
Before starting the design for the school, Antinozzi Associates designers carefully studied the adjacent residential neighborhood and tried to envision the contextual and functional impact a new elementary school facility would have on the families that lived in the immediate area. The school site itself contained several blighted residential properties and the elimination of these structures was the beginning of changing the culture of the surrounding neighborhood. On one side of the site, residential buildings were composed of individual two- and three-family traditional-type houses. On the opposite side, the school site was bounded by large-scale apartment block structures. The final school design responded to the feel of the neighborhood by creating two separate and distinctive structures instead of one single, out-of-scale block school building. The upper part, or Commons Wing, responds to the smaller scale of the two- and three-family houses by looking, itself, like a cluster of smaller buildings. The lower, or Academic Wing, is much more in keeping with the scale of the larger apartment blocks on that side.
ABOUT SOUTH END ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The original design program for South End Elementary School, as well as the swing school program it needed to adapt to, incorporated standard Educational Specifications for a 750-student, Pre-K through 8th grade school. These requirements have all been accommodated within the existing, four-story (with basement) structure totaling 112,850 SF and a new 10,500 SF gymnasium/office addition.
Programmatically, the uppermost (4th) level of the existing renovated facility houses grades 6, 7 and 8. The third level is comprised of the intermediate grades 3, 4 and 5, leaving the second floor to house primary grades Pre-K, 1 and 2. The first floor level houses all of the administrative functions, media center, and food service facilities, with the gymnasium and associated athletic support functions in the new addition. Although maintenance, storage and mechanical spaces occupy the basement, the basement also includes spaces for art, music and performance arts classes – all with ample amounts of natural light incorporated into the design.