When McMillan Pazdan Smith began designing Spartanburg School District Seven’s New Drayton Mills Elementary School at Skylyn, one of the top priorities was to create a facility that fulfills its duties as educator, community ambassador and protector of children’s welfare simultaneously. However, in addition to addressing the multi-faceted purposes of this school building, the team also had to consider how to solve older problems like overcrowding, outdated technology and occupant health issues. Replacing two schools, Chapman Elementary and Houston Elementary, the school includes a wall of history, so that neither Houston nor Chapman Schools will be forgotten.
The new elementary school at Skylyn represents the district’s residents and values both visually and in practice. Based on the same design trends seen in many of the most successful contemporary schools across the nation, the classrooms are designed to work as “neighborhoods” within each grade. Each of these areas also has its own dedicated collaborative workspace to enhance the ideas of teamwork and cohesion. The open-plan classrooms and extracurricular spaces address critically important issues like daylighting and visual access, reinforcing a sense of lightness and levity in the learning environment. The exterior of the building is designed to blend casually with the landscaping elements and the playground, fostering a comfortable scale for users and visitors alike.
The design of Drayton Mills Elementary responded to the compact site by utilizing a two story floor plan to minimize the building footprint. The building is located closer to front of the site to provide room for car and bus drives on either side and playgrounds behind the building. Working with SCDOT on the layout for the drives was a critical component to the success of the design.