Althea Gibson Early Childhood Education Academy

East Orange, New Jersey

  • FIRM



    East Orange School District

  • AREA

    22,600 sq.ft.





This new $4.6 million Early Childhood Education Academy is designed to accommodate pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs, in compliance with the mandate of New Jersey’s 1996 Comprehensive Educational Act.

This 22,500-square-foot facility includes 10 activity centers (classrooms), child-study team offices, a 2,000-square-foot ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCAPACITY180COST PER SQ FT$204.00CITATIONSpecial CitationFEATURED IN1998 Architectural Portfolio1999 Architectural PortfolioSUB CATEGORYSpecialized room, health suite, outdoor play space and support areas.

The building is designed to foster the first experience of students within a structured educational environment, creating a setting that facilitates the transition from home to school without being intimidating to 4- and 5-year-old children. Each pair of activity centers is grouped with a storytelling area and restrooms to provide each child with a local neighborhood.

Designed as a teaching tool, the building features colorful building-block towers and brightly painted, exposed structural and mechanical systems. Natural light filters into the classrooms and corridors through clerestory windows and lightwells.

The academy’s arrangement on its inner-city site provides students—who may carry a fear of their surroundings with them to school—a sense of a safe haven. The outdoor play area, inaccessible to the public, is strategically located away from any streets, and sheltered by both the building and an attractive wrought-iron fence.


Photographer: James D'Addio


"What a neat place for kids! Nice use of color...small-scale exterior with wonderful variety of related materials."—1999 Jury