Blythewood, SC

Key Details:

Area: 137,000 SF
Completion: July 2022

History: Bethel Hanberry Elementary is rooted, from its earliest beginnings, in church-based schools after the abolition of slavery. As we know it today, the school was named after Bethel School, the original circa 1920s one-room schoolhouse, and Annie Hanberry, who passionately spearheaded the advancement of education for Black students and championed the school’s accreditation which was achieved in 1956. Through a series of consolidations, the school served as a high school and middle school before becoming Bethel Hanberry Elementary school in 1991.

A New School: Following an approved bond referendum in 2018, Richland School District Two elected to replace Bethel Hanberry Elementary School. With a collaborative design process that included community meetings, input from the school’s Athletic Alumni association, and district administration, the new Bethel Hanberry Elementary School will stand as “a beacon and centerpiece for the town for many years to come…design that not only honors the legacy of the school but provides the 21st-century learning spaces that the children of Richland Two need” said Will Anderson, Chief Operations Officer.

Site & Safety: The facility is strategically situated on the site to maximize daylight and optimize security. With a single point of entry, administrators can easily monitor both the bus and carpool drop-off. All classrooms have the desired north-south solar orientation to optimize natural lighting and a better connection to nature, removing the necessity for shades to block glare.

The play areas are located between the two classroom wings with fencing along the open side and exterior glazing is treated for safety.

Design Supports Pedagogy: The school is organized by a vibrant ‘main-street’ concept from which all communal spaces and the two 2-story classroom wings are accessed. With students entering the school on different academic levels, the teachers practice differentiation, preparing multiple lessons based on each student’s competency. Creating flexible, common collaboration spaces and group study rooms with visual connections to the classroom allows teachers to accommodate various learning levels of their students.

The media center features large glass expanses and pops of color with a tiered-seating campfire area created for storytelling and group learning. Designed for long-term flexibility, the library facilitates different learning styles with various furnishings for collaboration or individual studying in “cocoon” zones.

By prioritizing views of nature, biomorphic patterns, and a dappled light effect in the main corridor, the design creates a sense of calm for students and an atmosphere suited to optimize learning.

Culture & Student Well-being: With a heritage story as Blythewood’s first African American school, graphic displays of the school’s history throughout the school keeps students connected and learning about the past in a building that cultivates the leadership of the future. The COVID 19 pandemic has brought a broader focus on the social/emotional health of students.  Creating a biophilic environment serves as the first step, but areas within the design were developed to provide more intimate, secure spaces for children to calm, read, engage in private teacher conversations, or in peer-to-peer learning.