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CDH Partners Designs DeKalb County’s First Future-Ready Public School

August 8, 2019

CDH Partners, an Atlanta-based architecture and interior design firm, announces the opening of a recently completed middle school replacement facility for DeKalb County School District (DCSD). The brand-new Ronald E. McNair Middle School opened its doors to sixth through eighth-grade students on Monday, August 5.

The first of its kind in DeKalb County, this project represents a significant shift in the educational program of Georgia’s third-largest school district. Its design reflects DCSD’s strategic plan to develop Future Ready schools that engage its students in learning. The concept is a fundamental change from a traditional teacher-centric environment to one designed for dynamic, personalized learning strategies focused around the student.

McNair Principal Ronald Mitchell said, “Taking a page from our namesake, the new school represents a major positive turning point for the future of DeKalb’s students. The project is the first of its kind to use the school building to reflect the transition in our district’s pedagogy and help prepare students for their colleges and careers. CDH has been an integral partner throughout the process. They created an inspiring space for our educators to implement this groundbreaking new learning model.”

CDH based the 1,200-student school design around the user experience. Unlike traditional schools, in which students remain seated in rows of desks facing their teacher in rows of desks and chairs, McNair’s middle schoolers will have the space (physically and conceptually) to engage their social brain and work together to solve real-world problems. In the new environment, teachers adapt conventional interactions with their pupils and classroom furniture to become facilitators for student-centered learning.

At McNair, the school building is the foundation of the student experience. CDH’s design experts integrated shared areas throughout so that students can experience a full, well-rounded daily education with spaces to focus on individual study, collaborative group work, and hands-on projects. These communal spots become a tool to engage students and extend learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.

Melissa Cantrell, CDH Partners President and Principal in Charge of the project, said, “This is one of the most innovative programs in the state, specifically designed to meet the needs of the McNair Middle School community and the district. We are so grateful to be a part of it. DeKalb County School District is leading the way in modern education, all in the name of student success. They are planting the seeds for all students to be career ready, and I believe many other metro Atlanta schools will soon follow suit.”

Future-ready schools are characteristically collaborative, flexible and welcoming. They use synergic, creative environments to stimulate student learning. Using this as the basis for their design, CDH included adjustable spaces and furniture, intentional use of color, large windows and a courtyard. The new Learning Commons exemplifies all of these elements: open collaboration can occur on the amphitheater stairs, which leads to large main circulation area surrounded by bright murals and garage-style doors.

McNair Vice Principal Dr. Cathy Dorsey said, “Our administration, teachers and staff are excited for the opportunity to engage students more in their new space. As educators, our wish is to provide a safe environment where students develop a love for learning. The 21st-century education model prioritizes how students learn best and incorporates their needs for today, as well as their needs as part of the future workforce. We are all looking forward to seeing how they respond when they experience it.”

About CDH Partners

CDH Partners is proud to be consistently ranked as one of the top 25 architectural firms in Georgia. For over 40 years, the company has provided expert services in architectural design and interiors for the healthcare, senior living, worship, education and corporate sectors. CDH has contributed significantly to the architectural landscape of Georgia and continues to positively impact the community for generations to come. For more information, please visit www.cdhpartners.com

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