Jefferson RISE was founded in 2014 as a tuition free, open enrollment public charter school, focused on academics and social emotional learning for students to prepare for college and career. Its energetic team operated out of available space in an old church located in a shopping center, soon expanding into temporary modular buildings as enrollment for its middle school program increased. Several years ago, when Jefferson RISE Charter School was in need of expanding, they were given the opportunity to take over a former grocery store in Harvey, LA.

In a joint venture with Henrickson Architects, working in partnership with BOUMA Construction, we were tasked with figuring out how to adapt this grocery store into a fully functioning Middle and High school.

Programming and master planning evolved into a phased plan to prioritize completion for the growing program. Working closely with our design and construction partners, we pushed the envelope of funds and time to make sure every classroom space had a window, classrooms had thermostatic controls, and the space was used efficiently. The first phase included grade level classrooms for 6-8th grade, special education spaces, administration spaces, and a multipurpose space to serve as cafeteria and middle school level sports/recreation. The school has grown a grade level every year since opening, and Phase 2 came shortly after and included the high school facilities, science, and technology labs. Most recently, a building addition allowed for a full high-school gym complete with bleachers, locker rooms and a training room. This year they will have the opportunity to hold graduation ceremonies in the new gym.

Our design opportunities started with a “less is more” approach. The logo and school colors influenced a limited palette of functional and eye-catching accents, from carpet for offices to hallway paint accent colors and to the gymnasium beaming with school pride. One design feature also created a low- maintenance floor for the school: by exposing the existing slab and embracing its natural variations, we avoided both the cost of standard plank and VCT flooring, as well as the maintenance of waxing. The exposed concrete floors have minimal maintenance, and their mottled appearance holds up to the occasional stain and scuff. Without creating custom graphics, MBA used traditional acoustic panels in standard sizes and emulated the school logo ‘torch’ logo behind the bleachers for an eye-catching accent. School red and black appear throughout and are punctuated by pale grays and light maple wood. We are grateful to have worked with such a visionary client, and even more grateful that this building is now home to just about 700 students, with a 100% graduation rate.