"These buildings are beautiful. It should be easier to see them."
That was one of Kate Grant's earliest thoughts upon arriving at ISP last autumn as the new principal of the Primary School.
With their high ceilings, large windows and classic moldings, the buildings at 96bis and 98 rue du Ranelagh are jewels of turn-of-the-century architecture. But over years of use as school buildings, the insides had inevitably gotten jumbled with too much furniture, classroom materials, partitions and doors – obscuring the lovely internal structure of the buildings themselves.
Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach – a well-respected philosophy for early childhood education that regards the classroom environment as a critical component of learning - the Primary School team evaluated the current spaces, brainstormed ideal spaces, and came up with a plan to make over the classroom areas.
The ISP Building Maintenance team worked tirelessly over the summer to get the new classrooms in shape: tearing down old doors, plastering and painting, rearranging furniture and storage, and – most important – hauling away the clutter that creates "visual noise" and "sensory overload," Kate says.
The results – airy, spacious classroom suites, with flexible spaces to respond to the way children want to use them - were ready for the first day of school in September 2017.
The early reviews are encouraging. One Grade 5 student, at the end of the first day of school, spontaneously shouted, "I love our new classroom!" Teachers love that students seem to feel comfortable trying out the spaces as they learn.
And for the first time in a while, the buildings themselves shine through.