The need for flexibility and adaptation to changing technologies drove the design for Newmark Education, a project that combined its formerly separate K-8 and high schools into one program serving children and young adults, ages 5-21, who experience learning disabilities and behavioral disorders such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism spectrum, oppositional defiant disorder, and sensory integration disorders. The project involved renovating a former office building and adding two new buildings to the campus, in addition to a playing field and interactive gardens and landscape.
Key to helping these children thrive, its founders say, is creating spaces and classrooms that can be put to multiple uses as new needs arise. “Our kids really react to space, so their sensory issues can be a positive or a negative depending on the space they’re in,” Co-Founder and Director Dr. Regina Peter says. “Things need to move. Eighty percent of your classroom should be movable. Our kids need to move. They learn better when they can move.”
Mobile desks and swivel chairs allow students and teachers to move about freely depending on the lesson – an approach that encourages collaboration. The classrooms are also designed for seamless technology that can be shared from a smart board on the wall to students’ individual laptops and tablets. An auditorium with multiple screens makes presentations and performances more accessible from anywhere in the room. Wide hallways allow impromptu meetings or additional space for learning. The cafeteria is akin to a bistro, with small tables for four that encourage easier conversation.
The program also includes two art studios, a soundproof music room, occupational- and speech-therapy rooms, a science lab, and a health and wellness center. Additionally, the new school features a life skills apartment, which simulates a home environment to teach high school students how to live independently. The school’s teaching model has become popular among teachers at nearby public schools who wish to learn better methods of working with students with special needs, so the project also includes space for its well-regarded Teacher Training Institute.