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FRANKLIN - Architects are thinking outside of the box shape for the design of the new Forest Park Middle School, with preliminary floor plans showing different wings that categorize learning spaces but allow for collaborative learning at the same time.

The approximately 200,000-square-foot building will house 42 traditional classrooms, in addition to designated spaces for music, art, family and consumer education and technical education classes.

The design also has a built-in plan for possible expansion, in which extra gym space could be added in addition to the three-court gym and 10 more classrooms could be built on the second floor.

Light-hearted shape

Unlike the very preliminary drawings submitted before the referendum, the building is no longer rectangular. However, architect Nick Kent from Plunkett-Raysich Architects told the board recently that the design was formed very intentionally.

"A lot of things drove us to this shape. One of them is the really critical need to get natural light into every room," Kent explained to the school board in April.

Every classroom has exterior windows, except in the digital arts classroom.

This need for natural light influenced the outside perimeter of the building. The perimeter was also limited by wetland areas on the property, which then only leaves so much usable space.

Another consideration they had was making sure that the school did not stand out too much against the residences nearby.

"This building in its context is completely foreign in scale, so some of the undulations and movements of the building help to break down that scale," Kent said.

Although the building itself is not a rectangular footprint, the classrooms will be rectangles – a major concern since the current school has oddly shaped classrooms.

Community learning 

The building will also have a large emphasis on communal learning spaces.

Kent said designers have created a variety of areas to meet this need. Each wing of classrooms will have a designated room for projects, as well as a larger area for collaboration.

Related:New Forest Park building takes shape on paper

Kent also cast a vision for a student commons and "learning staircase" by the main – now secure – entrance. This area would function as the cafeteria, but also be used for group learning. This area would be similar to the entrance at the high school, which was recently renovated.

Traffic fixes 

Outside, the building will be covered in two shades of brick – one darker, one lighter. According to architect Devin Kack, this will help it blend in more with the nearby homes.

In addition, Plunkett-Raysich has reworked the traffic flow, improving the area by designating different drop-off zones.

Under the new design, buses will drop off students at the front door, in their own loop of traffic. Farther south on the west side, parents will be able to drop off students at another entrance by the gym. The parent drop-off area will also have a long loop around a large parking area, so that cars can queue up without major traffic jams.

The large parking lot in this area will provide ample parking for sporting events in the gym or events at the soccer fields, which will be located southwest of the lot.

The design also has teachers parking behind the building and a specific space at the front of the building for visitor parking.

Plunkett-Raysich Architects will continue to work on the design plans, and the first step toward actually building the school will be to go to bid for contractors to shape the land appropriately. The goal is to start this process near the end of the school year.

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The district passed a referendum in November 2016 for a new Forest Park Middle School building. Here are the plans so far. Building design and floor plans are preliminary and designed by Plunkett Raysich Architects in collaboration with Franklin Public Schools. Tiffany Stoiber/Now Media Group

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