ADM Group, Inc., the Southwest’s premier, locally-owned architecture, design and project management firm, has completed the two-phase, $27 million renovation of the Academies at South Mountain (formerly known as South Mountain High School) in the Phoenix Union High School District.
The renovation was designed specifically to align with and support the new learning environment at the school. It is still a large high school with 2,400 students; but now, youth are enrolled in one of four college preparatory and career readiness academies that include Science and Technology; Public and Social Services; Aerospace and Engineering; and Media Arts and Design. With just 600 students self-selected into each academy, these teens experience a smaller, more intimate learning environment where teachers and staff can focus on each individual, providing personal academic, emotional and social support.
Principal Brian Guliford said, “It’s about connectedness. Kids need to feel connected to the campus, their academic focus, their teachers and other students, too. This is how we create opportunity for each and every student. It’s a big school with a small school environment.” ADM Group is the first architecture firm in the Southwestern United States to design a school based on the academies model.
As you approach the campus, you still see the landmark that’s been there for decades: a Douglas A-26B twin-engine aircraft used by the U.S. Air Force in World War II. Originally located on the south side of the campus, it was ‘flown’ by crane to its new location closer to the center of the campus. The plane serves as a powerful reminder of the community’s history, as well as a symbol of the new academies and the potential for student achievement.
As for the rest of the campus, history had taken its toll. First opened in 1954, the school was badly in need of an update. Carpet and flooring were worn, colors were faded, electrical systems were out-of-date and even the air conditioning didn’t work well. The renovation corrected all those issues while taking the campus to a whole new level.
Now, after the complete renovation of more than 180,000 square feet of space, large signs clearly differentiate the academies with distinct color schemes assigned to each. Although a few shared buildings remain, for the most part, each academy has its own buildings, classrooms, labs and other supportive spaces. Mechanical systems have been completely upgraded, floors are polished concrete that requires minimal maintenance and state-of-the-art computer labs are now installed throughout the campus.
Jenifer Weskalnies, ADM Group’s Director of Architecture said, “The renovation brings fresh, new learning spaces for the kids – making each academy a place where they feel like they belong and that they can achieve. It gives them an incentive to keep going on – to pursue college or a career and to be successful. It rejuvenates everybody.” Weskalnies added, “Plus, it is definitely going to last another 25 years.”
And although the two-year renovation was a tricky project, since it was conducted while classes were in session, Principal Guliford is thrilled with the result. He said, “ADM Group was fabulous to work with. They’re experts at what they do. They did a really good job of engaging with us, in a way that captured our needs and our interests, in terms of design and in terms of the completed product.”