Coburn Elementary School Consolidation Supports Diverse Student Population

Philip G. Coburn Elementary School / Photos by Robert Benson Photography

West Springfield, MA – Designed by TSKP STUDIO with associate architect, Dietz & Company Architects, Inc., the Philip G. Coburn Elementary School project in West Springfield included combining three programs in a new building: the K-8 alternative program students, the pre-K students for a neighboring school, and the PreK-5 Coburn students. This allowed the district to provide language support services to a diverse student body of over 30 native languages and to retire two aged facilities that were expensive to operate. The school serves grades PreK-5. It houses nearly 700 students.

Organized around a central daylit corridor, the school celebrates its community by displaying the homeland of each student on a magnetic map in the lobby. The English Language Learner (ELL) director’s office suite is near the entry. It includes a welcome center and a space for the school to engage with families, address housing insecurity and food scarcity, and provide informational materials about West Springfield in multiple languages.

Educational program spaces support different learning modalities, individual and group instruction, physical activity, long-term projects, discussion and problem-solving, collaboration between pupils, and group presentation. The school includes a high school-sized gymnasium, a cafeteria designed to accommodate three lunch waves, and a stage flanked by the gymnasium and cafeteria. The organization of spaces, furniture, and technology is flexible to accommodate future needs. Classrooms are clustered by grade level, and spaces for students with disabilities are available throughout the school.

The school is named after a former public school teacher and editor of the West Springfield Record, the late Philip G. Coburn, who was heavily involved in the West Springfield community. During the dedication ceremony, Coburn’s son, Tom Coburn, said, “Helping the youth reach their full potential was a passion for my dad. Now, the new school building will continue his legacy.”

West Springfield Public Schools superintendent, Stefania Raschilla, said, “There are additional spaces for science, art, and music classes. As we look for safe and supportive environments for our students, we want to build those buildings.”

The school’s exterior relates to the residential scale of its neighborhood. The design modulates between a monumental scale and a smaller, more intimate scale appropriate for elementary school students. Multiple larger assembly spaces, such as the gymnasium, cafeteria, music room, and auxiliary gym, are securely available for community use after hours.