This project began with a Feasibility Study in 2014 followed by Educational Programming efforts. The study examined the County's options to either renovate their existing facility or construct a new facility to house the district's revamped program. The former Somerset County J.M. Tawes Technology & Career Center opened in 1976 and remained essentially unchanged since its original construction. The outdated facility inadequately accommodated current and future career and technology education programs that require a technology-intensive environment. Program offerings were limited by the facility size and organization as the building was shared with the Board of Education. The final report concluded the need to design and build a new technical high school.
The replacement facility allowed for the realignment and improvement of existing programs and opened new opportunities for Career and Technology Education in Somerset County. Design of the new facility began with a series of collaborative kick off meetings in 2016. Design efforts emphasized inclusion and equity for the students in providing much needed vocational and technologically rich training platforms in a modern flexible facility.
The design team kept the function of the facility at the forefront of every decision. Somerset County Public Schools wanted a facility that would encourage collaboration, inspire students, and be adaptable to the changing technology landscape. "Doing more with less" became a well-used phrase throughout the design process and pushed the design team to think outside of the box. The result was a state-of-the-art technical learning environment completed within budget.
A poorer rural county on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Somerset County views the school as a beacon of hope. Residents and community leaders agree that this facility will allow students to jump start their careers and break the cycle of poverty in Somerset County. High school age students are not the only demographic reaping the benefits of the facility. The County adopted a joint use policy for the high school, reducing the need for additional facilities and making the school a more integrated part of the community by locating the County's adult education and workforce development programs within the school.
Supervisor of Facilities, Daniele Haley, AIA comments on the facility's impact on the community "In a county where poverty is so high, to be able to get something like this that does have state of the art equipment and we have everything I think that we wanted in this building to be able to deliver that to our students they're just so excited."
Superintendent, Dr. John Gaddis similarly comments on the building's impact "A school of this magnitude proves we are committed to the academic and technical aspects of education in Somerset County. This building will change how we prepare our students for years to come." The 103,000sf career and technology facility provides an academic program for approximately 400 students in grades 8 through 12. The new facility houses a wide range of programs including automotive technology, biomedical sciences, business education, carpentry/construction, criminal justice, culinary arts, engineering design & electronics, health occupation, HVAC, horticulture, interactive media, IT networking, medium and heavy truck technology, and teaching academy.
The Somerset County Technical High School was designed to educate the next generation workforce in a variety of career paths including automotive technology, biomedical sciences, business education, carpentry/construction, criminal justice, culinary arts, engineering design & electronics, health occupation, HVAC, horticulture, interactive media, IT networking, medium and heavy truck technology, and teaching academy. The building is designed around Career Clusters to encourage collaboration between industries and increase student exposure to a variety of professions. In addition to classroom space, 3,000gsf of collaboration space was designed for students to continue learning outside of the classroom.
The entire facility is designed to provide students with a seamless transition from the classroom to the workforce. The biomedical sciences lab includes 5 fully functional hospital bed stations, and the culinary art classroom is adjacent to a state-of-the-art training kitchen. The design team worked with local industry partners in each field to ensure the educational environment would mirror students' future work environments.
Design features throughout the facility not only meet the functional needs of the building but embody the school districts mission of collaborative hands-on learning. Windows looking into the learning labs transform the corridor into a museum of trades while promoting safety and transparency. A vegetated roof area minimizes the heat island effect while serving as an exploration lab to the horticulture program. Mechanical, electrical, and pumping systems were left exposed, showcasing practical skills and turning the entire facility into a learning tool for the construction trades. An interactive display projects real-time energy consumption data and explains the elements of the LEED Gold design, illustrating the impacts and importance of sustainable design.
Becker Morgan Group was founded in 1983 and is a full-service design firm specializing in architecture, engineering, surveying, land planning, and interior design. Since 1994, Becker Morgan Group has been actively involved in the planning and design of Educational Facilities. The firm's Education Market Sector is comprised of team members who focus solely on education projects and are committed to staying abreast of the latest news, research, and trends impacting educational facilities in order to apply that expertise to each project. Becker Morgan Group’s specialized Education Studio consistently ranks among the leading K-12 firms both regionally as well as nationally.