Sheppard Pratt Health System’s (SPHS) Forbush School at Prince George’s County is a 12-month special education program providing services to students on the certificate track, ages 5-21, with autism spectrum and other related disorders. The student-centric, team-based program helps students gain independence through developing vocational and daily living skills.
Previously located in a few rooms of a public school building, SPHS leased 15,325 SF of commercial office space and engaged MCA to transform the environment into a special education school. The program includes classrooms, offices for physical, occupational, psychological and speech & language therapies, and administrators, a gymnasium, a sensory integration room, and occupational, vocational and daily living training rooms. The program is so successful that MCA is in the process of designing an expansion to the school to add 5 classrooms, increase the size of the physical education and occupational therapy programs and accommodate additional staff offices.
Key design features include maximizing natural light and views through placement of classrooms around the exterior, the use of skylights and clerestory windows to daylight corridors and high volume spaces, and the careful selection and placement of soothing colors, materials and patterns.
Student safety was carefully considered by maintaining visibility and sight lines into student rooms and down corridors, and through strategic placement of patterned, laminated glass to minimize student distractions. Classrooms were designed to accommodate multiple educational activities in each room, including speech therapy and the creative arts.
To promote healthy living, students utilize the multi-purpose gymnasium, sensory room, and outdoor playground specifically designed for students with autism . To foster independence, transitional and vocational spaces allow students to develop daily living and working skills such as meal preparation, cleaning, horticulture, food service, and retail.
Due to the school’s success, MCA is designing an expansion that will add five classrooms, increase the size of the physical education and occupational therapy program, and accommodate more staff to support a total of 91 students.
- Created a safe and inviting school environment within a commercial warehouse and office park
- Careful selection and placement of soothing colors and patterns throughout
- Maintains student safety with maximum visibility and sightlines
- Minimizes student distractions in the classroom through the use of patterned hallway vision panels
- Maximizes the use of natural light through the use of skylights and clerestory windows
Have a question about this project?
Contact Kimberly Kavanagh, AIA, NCARB, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C at firstname.lastname@example.org
So happy that this program continues to grow – and some of that surely has to do with the space designed at this location. As one of the parents commented when we had the open house just prior to the first day of classes – “I wish a facility like this had been available when my son was younger, but at least he’ll have it for his final years in school.” And soon we’ll have the opportunity to serve more families in PG County.—Chief of Staff, Sheppard Pratt Health System