The New Perkins Lower School
Building on Our History
On March 2, 2011 - the 182nd anniversary of the founding of Perkins School for the Blind - the nation's first school for children who are blind dedicated a 54,000 sq. ft., fully-accessible new schoolhouse. The building has been certified LEED Gold for its environmentally friendly design and features.
The day began with a tour of the new building where visitors were able to experience the enhanced features of the new building firsthand. Visitors saw a demonstration of assistive technology by a Lower School technology teacher; they learned about adaptive physical education in the school's new gymnasium; they explored the spacious classrooms and hallways that allow students with wheelchairs to travel freely and independently.
The dedication of the New Lower School Buildling celebrated the successful completion of the 54,000 square-foot school building designed to meet the educational, living and safety needs of roughly 60 Lower School students ages six to 15 who are blind or visually impaired with or without other disabilities.
Almost all Perkins Lower School students are visually impaired with additional challenges. Many use wheelchairs or walk with supports. The percentage of students with multiple disabilities is expected to grow in coming years, requiring more adaptable, accessible facilities. While the number of students at Perkins is not expected to increase, their individual needs will be greater.
The new schoolhouse meets the changing needs of our students with entrances and exits that are wheelchair accessible; larger specialized classrooms; better spaces for teaching independent living skills and personal care; covered walkways allowing students travel to and from residences and classrooms on their own; and much more.
Perkins President Steven Rothstein said the impact of the project on students and teachers is profound: “This is truly a commitment to accessibility, it’s a commitment to safety, to personal independence for our students. It’s a commitment to planning for the next hundred years.”
View our Lower School Construction Photo Gallery to see the latest progress and learn how students are being included in this historic endeavor.
The Shawmut construction crew worked closely with Perkins to use the construction process as an opportunity for students to learn, interact, and be involved in an exciting new chapter for their school.
During an assembly to educate Perkins students about the construction process, Shawmut Construction Manager Mike Mallett compared the new building to a human body.
"You’ve got your bones inside you, that hold you together — that’s what we’re doing outside right now; we’re putting the bones of the building up, the structural steel," Mallett explained.
To help the students better understand every stage of the project, Shawmut created a "tactile construction board." The teaching tool consists of a 6’ x 10’ wall covered in samples of materials related to the phase of construction currently underway. The samples were arranged chronologically and spatially from foundation materials to roofing. Braille labels allowed students to experience and learn about the construction project through touch while using their reading skills.
Throughout the course of construction and renovation, Shawmut operations team members and subcontractors visted classrooms to talk with students about what they do. As students learned about the project and the people who make it happen, contractors discovered how they impact the lives and learning of the students.
“This project will give them a hands-on experience that few children ever have, no matter where they go to school. They will learn not only about their new schoolhouse, but about how all buildings are made,” said Perkins Lower School Education Director Rob Hair.