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    Building Design + Construction: Wiseburn High School: New Kind of P3

    November 20, 2018


    by John Caulfield

    A California school district and a charter school system join forces to open a skills-based high school.

    The adaptive reuse of a 330,000-sf, four-story Northrup Grumman engineering office building in El Segundo, Calif., has yielded three independent charter schools with 72 classrooms that serve 1,350 students.

    This was the largest conversion of commercial space to school building to make it through Division of the State Architect’s approval process.   

    Wiseburn School District, which had been a K-8 entity since 1896, became a unified K-12 district in 2014. Having already acquired the Northrup Grumman site, the USD partnered with Da Vinci Charter Schools—where 80% of the district’s eighth graders had been enrolled—to build a nontraditional high school whose learning environments would reflect the professional world.

    Last November, three charter schools began classes at the new Wiseburn High School: Da Vinci Science, which includes an engineering lab; Da Vinci Communications; and Da Vinci Design, which has a fabrication lab.

    To meet the DSA’s retrofit and fire-rating mandate within a construction budget under $300/sf, the project team demolished 90,000 sf of existing space; reused the building’s steel framing, central plant, and select infrastructural components; and used off-the-shelf systems, materials, and finishes.   

    Each level has a flexible 52,000-sf floorplate with floor-to-ceiling windows designed for natural light. Classrooms are organized around unprogrammed common areas that double as circulation and breakout spaces. Classrooms have rearrangeable desks; each has a science lab.

    A central atrium reveals a stacking of student collaboration spaces. There are no corridors or lockers; many of the walls are movable. Each school has a retractable door that rolls up onto an outdoor patio. Each school also has its own “address” off of a grand staircase that connects the teaching areas.

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