Mansfield Public Schools Built the First Self-Sustaining Energy Generating Elementary School in Connecticut
Mansfield Public Schools regularly reviews its facilities as part of its commitment to ensuring that students receive the best possible education. Included in this review are questions such as: Do our buildings require repair or replacement? Are our buildings adequate for the educational programming we aspire to provide? Do our buildings fit the needs of our population? What is the most cost effective way of meeting the needs of our students?
Over the last few years, it became increasingly clear that the answers to all those questions necessitated a serious look at re-configuring the district elementary school buildings. Our buildings are old and in need of repair, renovation or replacement. It was becoming uneconomical to keep repairing the buildings, especially given the availability of State subsidy for new construction. Our buildings no longer matched the School District’s vision for what a high quality educational program should look like. And our enrollment is declining, leading to inefficient use of space and consequent excess costs.
As a result, and with significant community involvement over the course of several meetings, the decision was made by the Board to pursue the construction of a new elementary school to replace all three of the existing elementary schools. The Mansfield Elementary School Building Project was approved by voters in a November 2019 referendum.
The building committee listened to all the input from the school district community, and came up with the following design specifications:
The school should feel child-friendly and small scale—we want to replicate the feel of our small schools in the new building;
The building should be open, bright and inviting;
The plan for the building should allow for flexibility and incorporate several multi-use spaces that accommodate different kinds of instruction and student investigation, collaboration, and demonstration of learning;
The design should be integrated with the natural surroundings;
The design should incorporate sustainable elements when possible.
The new school will be located along Warrenville Road, on the site of Southeast Elementary, which will remain in use during construction of the new building. Several possible sites were considered; all offered advantages and constraints, but in the end the Warrenville Road site was clearly the best option.
The new building will offer spacious classrooms with natural light and views of the outside environment. It will include multi-purpose spaces to allow for the most up-to-date teaching practices, as well as space for quiet study. The classrooms will be able to support multiple technologies. Classrooms will be clustered by grade level to encourage a small-school feel and facilitate teacher collaboration.
The site itself will include two playgrounds with age-appropriate equipment, a paved play area, multi-purpose fields, and a ropes course. The final design will make every effort to incorporate access to the outdoors for learning, reflection, and enjoyment.
This building will be constructed to produce as much energy as it uses. Known as net-zero construction, it will be the first new public school in the state to achieve this accomplishment. Over 60 geo-thermal wells, roof top photo-voltaic (solar) panels, use of day lighting in the building and reduction of energy load throughout the school will allow us to accomplish this goal.