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SEED School of Maryland - Feature

Designing Maryland’s First Public Boarding School

January 8th, 2015 by

Most boarding schools come with hefty price tags and a student body from the upper echelon. The SEED Foundation set out to change that — and bring the advantages of a rigorous academic environment to underserved students living in urban areas. In 1998, the national non-profit opened its first public boarding school in Washington. And today, SEED operates public boarding schools in Maryland and Florida, with plans underway to open one in coming years in Ohio.

The schools benefit students in many ways — and focus on preparing them for success in and beyond college. As the lead architect on each SEED School project, I want to share some of how the architecture and design elements contribute to the success of the schools, and their ability to push forward the SEED Foundation’s mission and help urban students reach their potential.

Here, I share an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) about the SEED School of Maryland, which opened in 2008 and now serves more than 400 students in grades 6 to 12.

Seed School of Maryland 1

Campus Planning and the Built Environment
Site identification and acquisition are some of the most challenging aspects of establishing a school. They require experience across numerous disciplines: legal, financial, real estate, construction development, and logistics. The challenge becomes even more complex when the acquisition of a site includes residential housing. Identifying an appropriate site, including access to academic, residential, and recreational facilities requires careful planning, research, and analysis. Detailed consideration must be given to the sensitivities of the immediate community, the local business environment, the larger community, local government, and the relevant educational environment. It is somewhat unlikely that any given site in an urban environment will meet the necessary criteria across all factors.

For the SEED School of Maryland, the SEED Foundation was able to secure a long-term lease agreement for Baltimore City’s vacated Southwestern High School and its 52-acre site, which provided a unique opportunity to comprehensively plan the new school. In order to support SEED’s beliefs and goals, the campus plan and buildings were designed around several principles.

Though the SEED School of Maryland welcomed its first class of students in 2008, the project’s capital campaign extended over the next five years, and it wasn’t until 2013 that the full campus vision came to fruition. This year, in 2015, the school will graduate and say goodbye to its first class of students, who will use what they’ve learned at SEED to enter college and prepare for successful careers.

To learn more about school architecture, read my previous blog post, “Trends in 21st-Century School Design.”