The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.

Nicknamed "the friendly city," Harrisonburg is a designated refugee relocation city. Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) has experienced the highest school enrollment growth rate in Virginia over the past 7 years. Between 2002 to 2013, school enrollment grew more than 32% with an overall gain in city population of 21%. 35% of HCPS students identify as English Language Learners, representing over 60 different countries and speaking 58 languages. This diversity offers both cultural opportunities for learning as well as challenges in terms of ensuring appropriate levels of support are championed for this unique and growing population.


"Learning neighborhoods” support differentiated opportunities for collaboration in core learning spaces, circulation areas, teacher resource rooms, and "maker" hubs that can be rearranged to support desired levels of autonomy and collaboration. The design embraces cultural diversity while highlighting the relationship between the school and its global context. These social and physical elements help students relate to the larger world while feeling part of a community designed just for them. Public spaces radiate outward from the lobby and create a welcoming arrival sequence, while wayfinding themed around local geography supports orientation.

Nicknamed "the friendly city," Harrisonburg is a designated refugee relocation city. Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) has experienced the highest school enrollment growth rate in Virginia over the past 7 years. Between 2002 to 2013, school enrollment grew more than 32% with an overall gain in city population of 21%. 35% of HCPS students identify as English Language Learners, representing over 60 different countries and speaking 58 languages. This diversity offers both cultural opportunities for learning as well as challenges in terms of ensuring appropriate levels of support are championed for this unique and growing population.


"Learning neighborhoods” support differentiated opportunities for collaboration in core learning spaces, circulation areas, teacher resource rooms, and "maker" hubs that can be rearranged to support desired levels of autonomy and collaboration. The design embraces cultural diversity while highlighting the relationship between the school and its global context. These social and physical elements help students relate to the larger world while feeling part of a community designed just for them. Public spaces radiate outward from the lobby and create a welcoming arrival sequence, while wayfinding themed around local geography supports orientation.

The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.

The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.

During the planning process, educators expressed a desire for team teaching. The resulting design promotes teacher and student collaboration and individualized learning by creating spatially-diverse neighborhood environments that provide a variety of flexible scales and arrangements. Breakout spaces and resource hubs are distributed throughout the neighborhood to empower one-on-one collaborations that complement the project-based work occurring in studios.

Beyond the core learning spaces, opportunities for small group learning, collaboration, social connections, and physical activity are embedded throughout the school.

Designed to be net-zero ready, the project is tracking LEED Gold with an energy use index (EUI) of 18. The school incorporates a number of high performance building initiatives at a range of scales including reducing water and energy use, incorporating healthy low-emitting materials, promoting natural daylighting and abundant views to nature, ensuring healthy air quality, employing innovative stormwater capture and management, and providing a high-performance envelope design, including a geothermal HVAC system.

The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.

During the planning process, educators expressed a desire for team teaching. The resulting design promotes teacher and student collaboration and individualized learning by creating spatially-diverse neighborhood environments that provide a variety of flexible scales and arrangements. Breakout spaces and resource hubs are distributed throughout the neighborhood to empower one-on-one collaborations that complement the project-based work occurring in studios.

Beyond the core learning spaces, opportunities for small group learning, collaboration, social connections, and physical activity are embedded throughout the school.

Designed to be net-zero ready, the project is tracking LEED Gold with an energy use index (EUI) of 18. The school incorporates a number of high performance building initiatives at a range of scales including reducing water and energy use, incorporating healthy low-emitting materials, promoting natural daylighting and abundant views to nature, ensuring healthy air quality, employing innovative stormwater capture and management, and providing a high-performance envelope design, including a geothermal HVAC system.

The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.

From the beginning, VMDO performed beyond the high expectations of our entire Board in terms of accomplishing our objectives, representing to the public our goals, developing consensus on the details for the buildings among the various stakeholders, and monitoring the construction of these buildings that are and will be award-winning.

– Andrew Kohen Harrisonburg City Public Schools, School Board Member
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.
The elementary school features 3 floors, including 42 classrooms subdivided into innovative “learning neighborhoods” which will encourage collaboration and novel curricular arrangements that support teaching and learning, while allowing for flexibility in how the building is used.

Client: Harrisonburg City Public Schools

Location: Harrisonburg, VA

Discipline: Primary & Elementary Schools

Completion: 2017

Size: 103,000 SF

Awards Received

2018 Best Design Award
Virginia Association for Learning Environments