Chet F. Harritt School’s campus expands by nearly 20,000 square feet through this extensive new construction project. The largest addition comes in the form of a 17,000 square foot middle school building.

The new building houses a Learning Resource Center (library), an Innovation Lab/Makerspace with access to an exterior learning courtyard, two middle school science classrooms with a shared workroom and access to dedicated outdoor courtyards, and four standard middle school classrooms.

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Prior to the building of the new facility, there was no identifiable ‘home’ for these Santee students. Scattered across lower grade levels or housed in aging portables, the upper grade students lacked a sense of belonging and were left feeling isolated. The Santee School District took this into serious consideration and began an intensive engagement process for the design and construction of this building.

In addition to providing a permanent home for the junior high students, the client wanted us to create high-performing, state-of-the-art research, learning and collaboration spaces for the entire TK through 8th-grade campus and community.

Driven by the school’s STEAM curriculum and mission to provide inquiry-based learning experiences that emphasize creativity and collaborative problem solving, the learning environment needed to be innovative and inspiring.

After being delayed for more than a decade due to the economy and funding issues, these key stakeholders were highly committed to the success of this long-awaited project.

Inspired by its adjacency to a small park and proximity to a large Regional Park, the outdoor environment played a critical role in the design of this new building and its exterior spaces.

Orientating the building to the West, with adjacency to the parking lot, led to the creation of a new campus face and connection to the community.

Complementing the three existing circular buildings and the low-scale style of the campus, the new layout featured two parallel curved, single-story buildings with a translucent canopy in between to maintain outdoor circulation while offering protection from the elements.

The unique architecture of this addition increases its impact as it is comprised of two parallel curving buildings, separated by an exterior corridor and translucent covered canopy system. This design respects the existing round buildings of the campus while adding a contemporary flair through details like metal cladding, angled “V” columns, and a glass curtain wall entry.

Multiple entry points are provided throughout to accommodate the various user groups, allowing for separate circulation paths within this pedestrian-centered layout.

A combination of walls, doors and fencing aided in blending the interior to exterior spaces, allowing for protected and physically defined spaces that were still open to nature and inviting.

As a title-one school in an outlying area of the city, this new building gives the site a renewed sense of pride and has become a beacon to the community.

StudioWC Steps In

The planning process for this new project included multiple meetings with stakeholder engagement ranging from the facilities department, principal, teaching staff, and lease-lease-back contractor to the Board of Education and community members.

We understood integrating a new building on this 1960s campus meant careful consideration would be
given to current elements and surrounding context. Located to the South-East of the campus, the space
available to house this new multi-user building was limited.

The location needed to accommodate the new library and classrooms as well as maintain space for a fire
lane and a future childcare facility. The design also needed to take into account the site was nestled between the parking lot, a neighboring park, a main city street, baseball fields and snack bar building, and a main classroom and administration building. Interior spaces were connected both visually and physically to the outdoors, giving as much design consideration to the exterior as the interior.

  • Mirroring the existing round buildings, the new layout took advantage of the small space available. The open, central space between the buildings allowed users to circulate through an exterior space while also condensing the overall footprint, allowing for more daylight, eliminating the need for an additional 8.5-ton HVAC unit, and limiting the amount and type of materials used.
  • New classrooms and science labs were created, replacing old portables to provide a new home to upper-grade students.
  • The Learning Resource Center features both a Library and Innovation Lab that connect to a central collaboration area, encouraging the flow between the spaces and fostering creativity.
  • The interactive lab spaces join outdoor courtyards, more than doubling the available learning space, and provide a flexible indoor-outdoor environment for the users.
  • Through new landscaping, a physical connection was created between the park and the new building, extending even further to the existing administration building and main campus entry for a cohesive feel.
  • While new fencing was provided along the campus perimeter, additional security features were provided at the building’s corridor and courtyards.
  • In addition to low-water-use fixtures and energy-efficient equipment, interior spaces were provided with operable glass walls, skylights, and floor-to-ceiling windows, maximizing the use of natural light and reducing the need for artificial light.
  • Exterior spaces utilized recycled water with native and drought-tolerant plants as well as rocks and boulders, which not only matched the nearby landscape but provided areas for bioswale retention of stormwater run-off as well.

On a campus comprised of round buildings, we designed two parallel curved buildings connected by a translucent canopy. Buildings with curves always require extra attention to detail. Working in partnership with Balfour Beatty Construction resulted in one of the best-constructed buildings our firm has ever designed.

Karl Christensen

Assistant Superintendent | Business Services, Santee School District

“Our Capital Improvement Program started November 2006 when voters passed a $60 million General Obligation Bond measure. We had a different Architect of Record at that time and through the middle of 2012, the District had transitioned through three (3) different Architects due to substandard quality issues. In August 2012, we selected Webb-Cleff Architecture and Engineering to be our Architect of Record, now known as StudioWC.”

Since then, StudioWC has been instrumental in helping us to complete all the projects promised to our voters in 2006 (the last three projects were completed this year). They approach each project with a focus on quality and customer satisfaction. They are very responsive to our needs: work well with our Board, Administration, and Facilities Manager; and collaborate with us every step of the way to create quality facility projects within established budgets.”