Project Spotlight: Valour School in Petawawa, Ontario

February 22, 2017

In 2009, a team at Barry J. Hobin & Associates Architects (now Hobin Architecture) led by Project Architect and Partner Wendy Brawley, began work with the Renfrew County District School Board to design a distinctive Kindergarten to grade 12 school that would bring together students from three schools – two of which were Junior Kindergarten to grade 8 schools while the third was a High School, grades 9 to 12, all located on Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.

Although recently uncommon here in Ontario, the concept of blending K to 12 grade levels within a single structure is becoming more common. Blending levels allows the School Board to maximize resources such as technological assets, common space and human resources.  In this case, a single school was designed to combine General Panet High School, General Lake Public Elementary School and Pinecrest Public Elementary School, all of which were identified as requiring major renovations that proved to be cost prohibitive.  This allowed the Renfrew County District School Board to apply for funding to construct a new school on land donated by the Town of Petawawa.

The process included ongoing lobbying of the Ontario Ministry of Education by the Renfrew County District School Board so that the resulting school would be designed to serve the community in an effective long-term way. The original design was expanded to include additional classrooms and technology facilities. It was important throughout the process for the Hobin Team and the Renfrew County District School Board to be considerate of both the military and the distinctive culture of the community during both the design and construction phases.

“Through the process, the Board and our partners were motivated to work in a respectful and dignified fashion,” explained Brent McIntyre, Superintendent of Education – Program Services, Petawawa family of schools and Deep River, “Of course this is always the case, but I would suggest all parties were cognizant of the fact that we were constructing a school for the children of our Canadian soldiers – this made the project even more special.”

Originally scheduled to open in September 2012 and house 1,000 student spaces, expansion to Garrison Petawawa resulted in the Ministry of Education approving a modified programme that would serve 1,460 students.

The new two-storey, 126,000 square foot building features distinct elementary and secondary grade level zones. The geometry of the building is primarily composed of single-loaded corridors (having rooms only on one side) that surround the central quad-gym, with separate wings for the kindergarten and technical shops. Each corridor is colour-coded to serve as a queueing mechanism for the young students and visitors and, at their intersection, a flexible space for collaboration is provided. This has proven to be an asset when winter temperatures plummet and these collaboration spaces can be used for indoor recess.

The school is energy efficient and features a café- inspired cafeteria, a multi-sport gymnasium with the ability to be subdivided and a recessed stage, a media centre/library, full wireless connectivity and SMARTboard capacity in every classroom.

The ringed corridor around the gym is used as a fitness track, with each loop accounting for a 200m walk or run. The cafeteria is used during student pick-up times and as a gathering space for the community; a space that doesn’t exist elsewhere in Petawawa outside of the military base.

Classroom spaces were carefully designed to encourage and support academic excellence. Considerations include:  Spacious and functional science and technology lab, each well equipped with modern technology; a large gymnasium with four official sized basketball courts; Kindergarten spaces that lend themselves extremely well to play-based learning; primary, junior and intermediate classrooms incorporate spaces for collaborative and individual learning; and outdoor space that not only supports sportsmanship and play, but includes an outdoor classroom space to complement traditional learning.

In addition to the Valour School project, Hobin has supported the Renfrew County District School Board on other projects that include additions and repurposing of spaces as schools are changing to suit varied enrollment demands:

  • An addition to A. J. Charbonneau Elementary School in Arnprior providing additional elementary classrooms and a licensed daycare
  • Renovations to  Madawaska Valley High School in Barry’s Bay transforming the high school into a JK to 12 community school
  • Renovations to  Mackenzie High School in Deep River transforming the high school into a JK to 12 community school
  • Renovations to Renfrew Collegiate Institute in Renfrew, transforming the high school into a 7-12 school
  • Renovations to Central Public School in Renfrew to accommodate a licensed daycare

Valour’s design supports teaching and learning innovation while making sure that although the junior and senior students alike are accommodated in distinctive spaces, they have access to a number of common areas that foster a culture of care and a family-like environment.

The Valour School project team from Hobin Architecture, led by Ms. Brawley, included Melanie Lamontagne, Doug Brooks, Steve Clifford, Reinhard Vogel, and Leila Emmrys. “Working with the Hobin team, and in particular Wendy, Doug, and Melanie, has been exceptional,” McIntyre continued “They truly lead with professionalism and have a tremendous customer-first disposition. They were responsive to our needs, patient with our questions and determined to ensure quality on every aspect of the project.”

The new school – suitably named Valour following substantial community input – can boast significant community support since opening its doors to students in 2015.

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