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Early Childhood Academy is a public charter school serving students from across Washington, DC from Pre-Kindergarten 3 through 3rd Grade. Their mission is to foster the academic and social/emotional development of each student in a safe and holistic learning environment. Early Childhood aims to equip all students with the knowledge and tools to become high achievers, proficient readers, and critical thinkers. They seek to create a strong educational foundation for their students so they will thrive for a lifetime as productive and caring citizens.
Since its founding in 2005, Early Childhood Academy has operated from two disparate, non-school use centers on adjacent properties in the Washington Highlands neighborhood in Ward 8. The genesis of what would become the Early Childhood building started with the Menkiti Group, a DC based, mission-driven developer focused on transforming lives, careers, and communities through real estate. Menkiti was advising Early Childhood on purchasing a space of their own as they struggled to meet the needs of their students in a less than ideal physical space, when they learned that a vacant church on the adjacent site was for sale.
CGS Architects was commissioned to develop an affordable, creative design solution for the future home of Early Childhood Academy on the site of the abandoned 2-story brick church. The church was gutted and fully renovated with a new community gathering space created in the original sanctuary and Pre-K / Kindergarten below.
A 30,000sf addition was added to the southeastern side of the existing church. Given the steep nature of the site, a 3-story, concrete frame addition was set into the hillside. A brightly colored opening in an exposed concrete base welcomes students at the main entrance, and 2-story classroom volumes with large translucent windows sit on top of the base. The 1st Grade classrooms are located on the second floor of the addition, adjacent to the Pre-K and Kindergarten wing with direct connection to a new outdoor playground, and the 2nd and 3rd Grade Classrooms are located on the top level with connection to the multipurpose room and the north entrance. Large stairs at the center of the building with bold wall graphics connect the 3 floors and creates identity for each floor.
The project has been transformational to the Early Childhood and the community. The educators and students have a home they deserve where young students have a place to grow and thrive in an environment designed uniquely for them.