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Sneak Peek Inside the New Bayard Rustin Elementary School

Kid-focused design of new school creates flexibility in learning spaces

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The new Bayard Rustin Elementary School in Rockville is still very much a construction site, but Principal Rachel DuBois said it will be ready in time for the first day of school on Sept. 4.

As noisy construction equipment continued work outside the work inside is mostly complete.

Almost 600 students and 70 staff members will soon be calling the school home.

The three levels of classrooms in the school will accommodate the youngest children on the lowest levels, with first and second grade classes together on the second floor and upper grades on the third floor.

Each floor of the school also has a theme. Visitors enter on the “ground level,” with tiles and other fixtures in earthy shades of orange, red and yellow. The “tree level” on the second floor includes shades of green. And the third floor, or “sky level,” is filled with hues of blue.

Lockers are shown on the “tree” and “sky” levels of Bayard Rustin Elementary School. By Danielle E. Gaines.

While most schools include carpets on the floors of lower level classrooms, every room at Bayard Rustin includes a carpeted space where kids will be able to spread out, DuBois said.

There are also at least two standing desks in every room, some chairs that will rock and “wobble stools,” that allow students to move in every direction.

“Some kids need that when they’re learning. Some kids like to move, but some kids like to sit or having a rocking motion,” DuBois said. “…Where they sit in the classroom can change daily, but it can also change multiple times in a day.”

Different seating options are shown in a new classroom. By Danielle E. Gaines.

An amphitheater carved into the hilly terrain of the school site will provide outdoor learning space and even a venue for concerts by students from the adjacent music classroom.

There’s enough room for multiple classes, even entire grades, to meet together outside.

“It’s really about creating flexible learning spaces for kids,” DuBois said. “…We’re going to have the kids using their Chrome books and journaling and writing outside.”

An amphitheater provides outdoor meeting and learning space at Bayard Rustin Elementary School. By Danielle E. Gaines.

Instead of a large computer lab, all kids in kindergarten through 5th grade will have access to Chrome books, with the youngest students using touchscreens.

The media center—the hub of the school—features flexible seating, spaces for small- and medium-sized groups of students to gather, a television studio for student-run productions and a “maker space.” In that space, students will be able to experiment with hands-on activities from a collection of nearly 1,200 books focused on experimentation in arts, science, technology and engineering, said Tracy Jeffcott, a library media specialist at the school.

The “maker space” and books about hands-on learning. By Danielle E. Gaines.

The elementary school at 332 W. Edmonston Drive will open with room for 740 students and will accommodate a Chinese immersion program that has operated out of College Gardens Elementary School.

DuBois expressed excitement about leading a new school into the new school year.

“Our biggest goal of the school is to build relationships with the community, build relationships with our kids, build relationships with our staff,” DuBois said. “We need to work on building our culture and our community from the ground up.”

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