The Complex Puzzle of Replacing a School

Schools are constantly aging, with many having a life expectancy of 50-75 years. So, what happens when it is time to replace a school?

When it’s time to replace an outdated school, Districts may consider a number of options. As land becomes more expensive and less available, architects and school districts alike must embrace the necessary challenge of fitting a new school onto an existing school site. Re-imagining the site to solve the complex puzzle of onsite school replacements drives innovation, leading to viable and unique solutions tailored to each client.

What is an onsite replacement, anyways?
An onsite school replacement takes place when a new school replaces an existing school on the same site. This strategy is appropriate when an aging school no longer fits the programmatic needs of the District and the community, but the existing site still has value in terms of history, location, or status as a community anchor.

Below are three methods to accomplish a successful onsite replacement:

Phased: Zone the existing campus to create construction corridors, gradually constructing new buildings around existing buildings, and eventually demolishing the old structures while drawing connections between the new.

Adjacent to Existing: Construct the new school adjacent to the existing, transitioning students in at once before demolishing the existing structure.

Relocating Students to Temporary Campus: Some districts choose to use “swing space” to relocate students to a temporary school while construction is taking place on the existing site. This method is the least commonly used as most District’s don’t have dedicated “swing space.” Move students to a satellite campus, leaving the existing campus vacant. The existing facility is then demolished, and the new school is built over its footprint.

When a replacement school is determined to be the best option, our team is adept at phasing and sequencing to help school districts put all of the pieces together.

Watch the video below for more details on these three methods.

The 4 steps to an Onsite School Replacement

  1. Understand your needs and budget
  2. Complete a Facility Condition Assessment
  3. Look at your option of replacing or renovating your existing school
  4. If replacing your school is determined to be the best solution, evaluate the options of replacing your school

Aiken High School Phased Onsite Replacement

K-12 Onsite Replacement Experience

LS3P has a wealth of experience in on-site replacement schools. These project are not only complex due to the site and building constraints, but also many on-site replacement projects require that your school stays open and operating while new construction is ongoing. Our first concern is always the safety of the students, staff and parents. We work in concert with the contractor to develop a staging plan that allows the construction to be completed in an efficient and timely manner, while still allowing the school to function as needed.

Foresight //

New Construction, Renovation, & Consolidation: Opportunities in K-12 Design

School systems around the country are constantly navigating an ever-changing educational landscape. In addition to implementing curricula and meeting the academic, emotional, and physical needs of a diverse and rapidly growing population of students, school systems must accommodate changing demographics, shifting class sizes, evolving pedagogies, increased technology requirements, trends in flexibility, and increased security. All of these elements have hastened the need to modernize campuses throughout the US.

When faced with change at this scale, school systems must navigate the complexities of both short-and long-range planning for facilities. Many systems struggle with aging facilities that are nearing obsolescence, and the decision to build a new school or renovate an existing facility can be a challenging one.

Learn more about What Questions Architects Ask by clicking the image below.


About LS3P’s K-12 Studio

Our K-12 experts are deeply invested in designing environments for learning, and our passion for excellence is rooted in building authentic client relationships. We believe that great design begins with listening; we take the time to understand the complex, multifaceted requirements specific to each client’s needs.

Click here to view our K-12 Portfolio