The approximately 40,000-square-foot renovation and expansion replaces 12 mobile classrooms with a new structure to better serve the needs of nearly 60 students ranging across all ages in grades K-12. The school provides specially designed spaces and adaptable capabilities such as adjustable lighting to suit the emotional state of students. One specific classroom has a drop ceiling outlined with controlled LED lights with adjustable colors, intensity, and lighting patterns to support student needs.
“As a leader in K-12 construction, Skanska has developed a niche for complex and intricate facilities, including those constructed on an active campus or for a specific demographic as this project was,” said Brian Peterson, Project Executive for Skanska's Florida building operations. “We hope the delivery of the new Dorothy Thomas Exceptional Center project will serve as a model for the greater Tampa Bay community and meet a growing demand for specialty schools in the state as Florida continues to experience a surge in population.”
Designed by Fleischmann-Garcia Architecture, the project incorporates many features intended to positively impact student behavior and help give students a sense of freedom while also being in a controlled classroom setting. For example, most classrooms face the playground area or newly added sensory garden, which has landscaping with native trees and plants, along with benches and picnic tables that serve as a calming zone before entering the building.
Additionally, the interior space features sensorial hinges that connect the three core areas of the building, including the front entry, center, and back wings. Additionally, the fire protection sprinklers, lights, and ceiling devices blend into the woodwork, providing minimal visual distractions for students. The tall ceilings, textures, and the lighting reflected from the wooden materials are also intentional to support the emotional balance of the students.
“We are so grateful for this new facility, which is a one-of-a-kind design in the state of Florida," said Van Ayres, Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent. "It is so important that we meet the needs of our students and provide them with spaces that will encourage their growth, both emotionally and academically. Our partners with Skanska and Fleischmann-Garcia Architecture have built and designed a school that will have positive impacts on children for years to come.”