BROOKLYN, N.Y., Aug. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB) announces the launch of its new "Front Porch" designed by architects at SITU and WXY — an outdoor lobby that ensures safe entry and exit in response to the threat of COVID-19 and helps integrate its education buildings with the greater community.
At a live socially distant demo event, Brooklyn LAB unveiled the structure, during which faculty and medical professionals rehearsed the school's new arrival process and showcased the Front Porch's design elements. Staged classrooms also illustrated the rigorous social distancing protocols that LAB will be implementing when schools can safely reopen.
"As we prepare to reopen our schools this fall, school administrators must examine our back-to-school rituals and consider how to upgrade our plans for re-entry to account for the global health pandemic that is ravaging communities around the country. Science, technical expertise, and public health must guide our preparation," says Eric Tucker, Executive Director of Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools. The Front Porch concept prioritizes social distancing, temperature checks, staggered scheduling, and increased points of entry and exit of school buildings.
The Front Porch evolved from ideas generated by Brooklyn LAB's May 2020 Back to School Facilities Tool Kit, which serves as a visual guide for schools preparing to reopen after COVID-19 closures. The Tool Kit presents ideas for facilities upgrades focused on creating an environment that supports social distancing and other health-related requirements for both the journey to and from school and the classroom experience.
"School is about much more than education, and this fall, it is vital that families have options that make them feel safe," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "The solutions that Brooklyn LAB has spearheaded are just one more example of the incredible strength, ingenuity and collaborative spirit that New Yorkers have displayed over the past months, and can serve as a model for schools as they consider their options."
Brooklyn LAB and design experts involved in creating the Back to School Facilities Tool Kit identified LAB's entry and exit points as a major concern for safe reopening this fall. Like many New York City schools located in multistory buildings, LAB has limited points of entry. Over the past two decades, many urban schools have become even more "fortified" in response to the specter of gun violence. If no changes are made to the entry process, architects and planners predict that students could end up waiting in long lines for hours to maintain 6 feet of space between students. This would increase students' exposure to health risks and could disturb the surrounding community with more noise and congestion.
Using input from students, families, staff, and community members, Brooklyn LAB worked with Urban Projects Collaborative, SITU, WXY, and Urban Umbrella to develop and adapt design concepts for middle and high school facilities and operations at 77 Sands Street.
Developing the Front Porch required careful integration with school operations. It accounted for several challenges by:
- Staggering school entry by class to minimize long lines and wait periods
- Creating "split schedule" AM/PM queuing to minimize challenges with the entry, exit, and classroom cleaning processes
- Ensuring accessibility in terms of installation, permitting, and cost. For instance, the Front Porch solution Brooklyn LAB chose is built from off-the-shelf materials that can be rented by the month and are pre-approved by the Department of Buildings
In addition to adhering to safety protocols, design elements of the physical structure will also beautify the space and foster a sense of community:
- Polycarbonate ceiling panels allow natural light to filter through
- Natural materials including wood planter boxes soften the urban space
- Colorful painted ground surface and playful graphic art incorporate elements of the school logo
- Wayfinding and social distancing graphics ensure safe 6-foot distanced queuing
- Greeting station displays safety measure infographics, while providing privacy for wellness checks required before entry
- Student artwork is installed on banners secured to the shed structure, which can be periodically rotated with new art
Brooklyn LAB believes schools should be part of the urban ecosystem. At LAB, students have benefited from opportunities such as internships, career days, and community service projects in local organizations. After the pandemic, LAB's Front Porch will play a new role, serving as a venue to invite the surrounding community into the school building. "LAB is imagining the Front Porch as a place to share information about school activities, host community gatherings, and give students and community members the chance to connect in ways that bring out the best of Brooklyn," says Aaron Daly, Chief Operating Officer, Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools.
As schools grapple with basic questions about whether their doors will open this fall, one of the primary concerns for urban schools will be to rethink school entry and exit protocols under the pandemic. The Front Porch is a solution that safeguards health today while building a necessary bridge connecting schools to the communities and cities they serve.
"When we consider what designing for an eventual reopening might look like, schools in urban centers are particularly challenged, because they are often located in mixed-use buildings that aren't especially conducive to social distancing," said WXY's Principal-in-Charge Claire Weisz. "WXY welcomed the opportunity to partner with Brooklyn LAB, SITU, UPC and Urban Umbrella to design the Front Porch Framework as part of a suite of solutions that would not only prioritize the health and wellness of the school's community but also reimagine how any urban school's vital social infrastructure can be integrated into the public realm, now and after the pandemic is gone."
About Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools
Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB), founded in 2014, is a network of public charter schools that will serve 6-12th grade students this fall. LAB was designed to educate high-need urban students, particularly those who are least well-served by their current educational options. Named a "Center of Excellence" for its work with Students with Disabilities by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, LAB aims to meet the individual needs of each student and to leverage innovative technologies and learning practices to eradicate the achievement gap. LAB was selected as an XQ school and is actively involved in work to upgrade and rethink high school to better meet the needs of students and of the future. For more information, please visit BrooklynLaboratorySchool.org.
LAB partnered with the following design firms in preparing the Front Porch:
Urban Projects Collaborative (UPC):
UPC provides owner representation services for clients engaged in the design and construction of capital projects and facilities oversight. www.upcnyc.com
SITU is an unconventional architecture practice based in New York City, using design, research and fabrication for creative and social impact. www.situ.nyc
WXY is an award-winning, studio-based multidisciplinary practice focusing on innovative approaches to public space, structures and cities. www.wxystudio.com
Urban Umbrella is the first design alternative to the sidewalk bridge in 50 years, transforming a protection system into a graceful sheltering space. https://www.urbanumbrella.com/
SOURCE Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools