05 September 2018
Ceiling renovation improves historic school
Rockfon acoustic ceilings create a brighter, healthier learning environment
Improving on the past, the Walker-Grant Center’s recent renovation builds upon a history spanning eight decades and multiple generations of students. Part of the Fredericksburg City Public Schools in Virginia, this facility’s ongoing evolution preserves its heritage, serves the immediate needs of its community and stands prepared for its future.
The updated educational center now houses the Fredericksburg Regional Head Start program, the city’s Early Childhood Special Education classes, the Virginia Preschool Initiative and the school administration offices.
A place of learning for 80+ years
Serving as Fredericksburg’s first publicly supported high school for African-American students, the two-story brick building was constructed in 1935. After 1968 when classrooms were integrated, the building became a middle school for all of the district’s students. It continued in its role as a public school until 1988, when a new Walker-Grant school was constructed.
The building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, listed as “Original Walker-Grant.” Today, the building is known as the Walker-Grant Center.
A renovation project for future generations
To update the historic educational center for current and future students, the Fredericksburg School Board selected First Choice-Public Private Partners. This partnership paired Moseley Architects and English Construction, with Downey & Scott, LLC acting as construction manager for the $12.5 million project.
For the project’s significant renovations, Inwood Design Build installed 115,000 square feet of new Rockfon acoustic stone wool ceiling panels as supplied by IDI Distributors. The Walker-Grant Center’s design-build team selected Rockfon Artic®, Rockfon Sonar® and Rockfon® Hygienic Plus™ panels in 2-by-2-foot sizes for a consistent, clean, easy-to-maintain appearance throughout the facility.
A brighter, healthier learning environment
Along with the fresh, bright look, the white surface of Rockfon stone wool ceiling panels reflects up to 85 percent of available light. Drawing the exterior daylight more deeply into the interior of the Walker-Grant Center helps minimize the staff and student’s need for electric lighting.
Contributing to healthier indoor air quality, the design-build team’s choice of ceiling panels also has been certified as GREENGUARD Gold for low chemical emissions. Further enhancing the wellness, Rockfon’s metal and stone wool ceiling products contain no organic compounds, which means they do not support mold or microbial growth.
A better acoustic experience
Poor acoustics affects everyone, but could have been a particular problem for the children and staff at the Walker-Grant Center. Children under the age of 13 have an underdeveloped sense of hearing and comprehension – a limited vocabulary means if they miss a word, they cannot easily fill in a correct replacement.
Special education students also may have difficulties when acoustics are poor. Even the average student can struggle when their learning experience is compromised. Classrooms in the United States typically have speech intelligibility ratings of 75 percent or less, meaning every fourth word is not understood.
Every student should have the same opportunity to hear and understand what is being said. Combining optimized acoustics, maximized daylighting and high-quality indoor air not only are recognized as helping reduce absenteeism, but also contribute to greater comfort, concentration, comprehension and ultimately, to better test scores.
A comprehensive update
Technological innovations also promote collaboration between staff and students at the Walker-Grant Center. The 14 remodeled classrooms each showcase an ActivWall, a widescreen interactive learning tool.
Other equipment upgrades include a new heating and air-conditioning system, roof, windows, plumbing, fire-alarm system, lighting, fiber optics, flooring, a second elevator and a sprinkler system. Many of these modernized services also were accommodated above and within the updated ceiling grid.
A respectful preservation
Moseley Architects paid tribute to the school’s history by including or repurposing some of the old fixtures. White concrete letters spelling out Walker-Grant that once graced the building’s exterior are now displayed on a wall in the new atrium entrance. Decorative metal floor grates have been reworked as wall accents. Old paneled-wood doors were refinished and reused as wall décor.
Honoring both the building’s history and its new life as the Walker-Grant Center, a dedication ceremony was held in October 2017.
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