Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates’ Partnership with School District of Philadelphia Provides for Facility Improvements Impacting Over 24 Schools and 9,200 Students

The School District of Philadelphia has an ongoing commitment to make every school a healthy and welcoming environment for teaching and learning. Some of the goals are to improve environmental conditions, renovate existing schools, build additions for new learning environments and increased capacity, and to build new schools.

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates (CRA) has partnered with The School District of Philadelphia to provide design services for 24 schools in the past 4 years including the new Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School, Rhawnhurst Elementary School renovations and additions, and multiple classroom modernization projects.

Solomon Solis-Cohen, serving 1,400 students, is the largest elementary school in The City of Philadelphia and is one of 3 new construction schools currently in construction for the country’s 8th largest school district.  Solomon Solis-Cohen is on track to open for the Fall 2021 school year.  The new school is designed as a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold School, incorporating principles of collaborative design, energy efficiency and indoor air quality.  Forward thinking, the new school incorporates air scrubbing technology designed in 2017/2018 that is a model for The School District of Philadelphia as it plans how to open schools this coming year with COVID 19 and is being planned into many of their future construction projects.


Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School

Design features for Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School include distinct grade houses for 1st through 5th grades of 9 classrooms per grade with both exterior and internal windows from the classrooms to an open centralized collaborative classroom with small group instruction, special education, ESL classroom, and teacher support for each grade house.  This design encourages visibility between classrooms for inter classroom education, monitoring for safe school design, and quick access to alternative settings for education to maximize the educational time during the school day. Centralized between the five grade houses are core building functions, including on open library and cafeteria, gymnasium, learning stair, art, music, and science, including a roof top science classroom with green roof.

The Philadelphia School District challenged CRA to design a 40-50-year facility, thus sustainability became a core principle in planning for Solomon Solis Cohen Elementary School.  The school will reduce energy use by more than 45% utilizing a building-wide approach for efficiency, including increased exterior envelope insulation and air barrier system, high-efficiency mechanical system with air scrubbing technology, and roof top mounted solar array supplying 28% of the school’s energy need.  At the same time, Solis Cohen daylights over 94% of all educational spaces with views to the surrounding community.  All educational spaces are planned for optimal sound and voice recognition through acoustical design.  The school tracks energy and water usage through expanded metering and is designed with individual teacher and occupant controls in all classrooms and educational spaces.

Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School

Incorporating a collaborative educational model and sustainability meets Philadelphia’s anchor goal of 8-year old’s reading on or above grade level, ultimately leading to the district’s anchor goal of students graduating ready for college or a career, while also meeting Philadelphia’s anchor goal of funding great schools with a zero deficit.  Accomplishing this last goal, cost efficiency was a core principal throughout design with the project coming within one percent of Philadelphia’s budget.

Rhawnhurst Elementary School is an 85,000 SF addition and renovation project for the PK-5 school serving 700 students.  The overall facility was re-organized creating a distinct Pre-Kindergarten through second grade primary school and a 3-5 upper elementary school.  It is registered to also achieve U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold Certification for sustainability.  Rhawnhurst Elementary, a sister school to Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School one mile away, builds upon the principles developed between CRA and The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Capital Programs at Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School. Rhawnhurst joins Solis-Cohen in construction this coming spring.

Rhawnhurst Elementary School Exterior Rendering

CRA led grant applications for The School District of Philadelphia, acquiring two $2 Million grants for sustainability from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Solomon Solis-Cohen and Rhawnhurst, helping reduce local tax impact for the schools.

In the past 4 years, CRA has also provided services for the modernization of classrooms for 21 Schools for the School District serving more than 6,700 students.  These projects include renovation of each classroom providing safe and modern learning environments, and new finishes and furniture for the students in many of Philadelphia’s most historic schools. Including Francis Scott Key Elementary, a National Register Building originally built in 1889 and Philadelphia’s oldest functioning school building.


Elementary School Classroom Modernizations

As part of the total improvement program the School District of Philadelphia has completed the following:

  • Improve Environmental Conditions – 28 Schools lead safe; asbestos abatement, remediation or repair at 183 Schools, 100% initial ventilation assessments;
  • Renovation, Additions and New Construction – 3 New Schools, 3 school additions, major renovations at 11 Schools, 15 new or completely renovated schools since 2015;
  • Modernizations – modernized early literacy classrooms at 11 schools, total classroom modernizations for 510 classrooms at 39 schools.

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates is proud to be a part of such a well-planned and comprehensive program that is providing quality educational spaces for the students of The School District of Philadelphia.

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