Singapore American School Reimagined

Author: Monica Portillo

On April 15, 2021 Singapore American School announced a S$400 million campus upgrade project that reimagines school...one that reimagines the role of classrooms and buildings in the learning journey to provide unmatched opportunities for students and teachers. This is the result of several years of planning and school community engagement, including thousands of parent, educator, and student voices sharing thoughtful feedback throughout the development process.


HOW DID IT ALL START?

Since 2014, SAS educators have been on a journey of transforming an existing successful school to better serve students as we prepare them for a constantly changing world. Initiated by former Superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball, the R&D process was designed to challenge deeply held assumptions, engage educators, and shape culture. It included thousands of hours of research and visitations to over 100 schools worldwide. Over 100 college admissions officers were interviewed, internationally known educational leaders were consulted, and a strategic plan informed the creation of spaces on campus that could be prototyped for what the new learning environments in the new campus might yield. These illustrative and investigative prototypes, dubbed pathfinder projects, allowed educators to begin developing the practices and systems within a flexible learning environment to support our strategic plan.

These pathfinders proved to be excellent learning tools, and the lessons learned from their implementation informed and guided the design of future spaces at SAS. These prototypes highlighted what works and does not work and the impact they have on teacher relationships, student relationships, and student development of future-relevant skills. “Learning walks” became an integral part of community engagement, and over 400 parents toured the pathfinders on these guided tours, which helped them better understand the school’s vision for learning and learning spaces.

Learning walks did not stop with parents. At least six other international schools visited our pathfinders to learn more. The pathfinders were successful to a large extent, and over 90 percent of middle school students said being in a pathfinder improved their relationships with faculty, while 100 percent of kindergarten educators would prefer not to return to a traditional environment.

Former student Faith Jorgensen (class of 2021) couldn't be more excited to see where this goes! “I’m excited about the opportunity for our school to be designed and for classrooms and spaces to be built specifically for their purpose. Whether it be to play and/or eat with friends, conduct experiments, work in groups, or prepare for Advanced Placement exams, there will be a space for each student to learn and have fun in school.”

NEXT STEPS

It’s been a meaningful learning journey and the community has walked with us every step of the way. Our design advisory groups made up of students, parents, and educators, have worked tirelessly towards identifying exciting ways to make SAS more functional by including additional dining options for students, creating new athletics facilities, and incorporating native flora, along with many other recommendations. The project will be completed in three phases, with phase one beginning on May 29 and the entire project scheduled for completion by fall 2026.

According to Superintendent Tom Boasberg, “Our greatest asset as a school is our educators. They are essential in creating engaging and meaningful learning experiences for each and every student who comes to SAS. This project will create learning environments with endless possibilities for our students and educators.”

SAS Reimagined is excellence reimagined. Extraordinary care reimagined. Possibilities reimagined. Over six years, in a series of three major phases, SAS will embark on the journey, putting in place the supports that empower our faculty to deliver high-quality experiences tailored to the individual needs of each student by accomplishing the following:

• Successfully complete a multi-phase building plan that includes a new elementary school, a new middle school, a fully renovated high school, a new welcome center and campus square, and a new athletic complex 

• Meet the highest levels of sustainability in campus design and human performance (meeting the Green Mark Platinum and WELL standards) and use these as educational tools for our students

• Engage with representative members of the SAS community on design, construction, and disruption related to the campus upgrade project

• Provide relevant professional development to all educators to support the successful transition into the new facilities and new learning environments

The forward-thinking work of prior school leaders and the tremendous work of our current community has enabled us at this time to move forward with a campus upgrade project that will deliver on each of these goals. After significant internal work with faculty and design teams, the last few years were spent engaged in large-scale community working sessions to gather important considerations from all members of our community (students, faculty, parents, alumni). These sessions provided insight that led to six key design themes that continue to inform the building of the campus: