The construction of the new Bennett Middle School was part of a larger district-wide initiative to improve the facilities for two of Wicomico County’s key schools. The project began with a feasibility study involving a detailed assessment of the existing multi-building campus, consisting of the James M. Bennett High School and the Bennett Middle School, plus a separate Auditorium Building. The team also undertook an educational adequacy assessment to identify the deficiencies in the facilities and created recommendations for the program needed to properly support the schools’ curricula. The recommendation of the study was to replace both schools, leaving the high school on the current site and building a new middle school on a nearby site.
The new Bennett Middle School is sized for 980 students in grades 6-8. The design of the new 161,000 sf, LEED Gold certified building is organized around grade-level clusters, with shared instructional spaces accessible to all users. The facility fully supports community use through the careful placement and design of the gymnasium, cafeteria/stage and media center.
The resulting building massing and arrangement responds to the existing site, through thoughtful building placement and orientation. Separate entrances for buses and cars support a safe and efficient site layout. The building’s footprint is reduced by implementation of a two-story academic wing. The front, academic wing of the building is connected to the large-volume rear wing, which houses the gymnasium, cafetorium and music rooms. The dramatic, light-filled media center is located along the link connecting the two wings and represents the literal and conceptual heart of the new school. Two accessible green roofs are located along the second floor corridor, providing additional outdoor learning spaces, while educating the students about sustainable practices.