Shefford Primary School

Pelletier de Fontenay + Leclerc Architectes


“This project opens up a variety of interesting outdoor and indoor spaces for engaging different learning styles. There are spaces where you can put performances on, places where kids could sit and work on projects together, and other possibilities for learning. Clustering the classrooms gives the large school a smaller feel, and offers students a sense of identity.” – Susan Fitzgerald, juror

The main pavilion includes a common cafeteria and auditorium area.

Part of Quebec’s Lab-École initiative to improve the province’s schools, this design for a new elementary school in the Eastern Townships encourages its students to develop as physically active, intellectually engaged, and community-minded youth.

The low-slung school is located at the edge of a small forest, with its opposite side opening onto fields and Mount Shefford beyond. Its layout is divided into pavilions that surround a central courtyard. Each age group occupies its own pavilion, creating identifiable “houses” for the students, while a main pavilion and gymnasium pavilion are shared by the school as a whole.

The school’s classrooms cluster around a central courtyard, whose landscaping and hardscaping provide a variety of exploratory play opportunities for students in all seasons.

The main pavilion houses the school’s reception and administration areas, as well as a two-level lunch area, open shared kitchen, two workshops, and a lounge. The partially sunken gymnasium pavilion includes clerestory glazing that allows for views between the gymnasium floor, the school’s main circulation corridor, and the central courtyard.

Like the best schools, Shefford is both simple in its expression and organization, yet complex in its spatial variety. Classrooms benefit from high ceilings, with an exposed wood structure that lends a warm atmosphere to the school. Double-height collaborative areas shared by the classrooms include open spaces for group activities, along with a quieter upper mezzanine for students to concentrate on focused tasks.

Shared collaboration areas between classrooms offer spaces for different styles of learning, including open areas for group activities and quieter mezzanines for individual study.

Outside, large roof overhangs form a continuous exterior covered promenade, which can be used as a path between pavilions and as a gathering space. The courtyard also includes an outdoor classroom, vegetable garden with a hand-pumped well, and various areas for both organized games and informal play.

Large operable windows and patio doors in each of the classrooms help connect students to the outdoors, while also allowing for abundant fresh air. Triangular solar chimneys help to moderate indoor air temperatures, provide natural ventilation, and bring natural daylight into the school’s central spaces.

Ground floor plan

Shefford Primary School’s volumes reference archetypical forms reminiscent of local agrarian buildings, without mimicking the area’s vernacular architecture. Its design is intended to offer an innovative model for schooling, but above all, to help students feel at home and welcomed at school.

Classroom pavilion section

CLIENT Commission scolaire de Val-des-Cerfs | ARCHITECT TEAM Pelletier de Fontenay—Hubert Pelletier, Yves De Fontenay, Yann Gay-Crosier, Etienne Coutu Sarrazin, Guillaume Larouche, Alexandre Hamlyn. Leclerc—Thomas Gauvin Brodeur, Claudia Gravel, Hugues Patry, Valeria Lima, Maxime Hurtubise. | CONSULTANTS Lab-École | STRUCTURAL Latéral conseil | MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL Bouthillette Parizeau | CIVIL Gravitaire | LANDSCAPE Fauteux et Associés | AREA 4,505 m2 | BUDGET $18.7 M | CURRENT STAGE Design development | ANTICIPATED COMPLETION September 2022