Caribou Community School, RSU #39

The Caribou Community School in Caribou, Maine, is a high-performance PreK–8 facility that facilitates and celebrates the Regional School Unit #39 School District’s aspiration to offer an innovative STEAM curriculum and hands-on learning to 750 students. The school was chosen to receive state funding to replace the energy-inefficient 1950 Teague Park Elementary School, Hilltop School, and Caribou Middle School. Consolidating Caribou’s three aging facilities into a new energy-efficient building creates efficiencies made necessary by population decline in the area.

Located on a 17.4-acre parcel in the heart of Caribou, directly across from the Caribou Wellness and Recreation Center, the new $54 million school establishes an aesthetic focal point for the community that is easily accessible by students walking or biking to class. Close collaboration among the City of Caribou, the National Park Service, the Maine Attorney General’s Office, and the Maine Department of Education makes this central site possible—a land swap was negotiated to secure the Teague Park grounds, and a new public park was provided.

The building lies within the watershed of the urban-impaired Caribou Stream, which required a stormwater management plan based on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Chapter 500 stormwater management rules. The building saves an estimated $700,000 in energy, operational, and labor costs annually over the first two years. Energy savings are created from an on-site biomass boiler for winter heating and a small gas-powered boiler for use in the spring and summer.

The 120,000-square-foot contemporary building’s main spine is anchored by a spacious innovation center, art rooms, multipurpose rooms, and a school library called the “Learning Commons.” Classrooms branch off this corridor and boast state-of-the-art technology such as 72-inch touchscreen smartboards connected wirelessly to student laptops. Natural lighting pours through large windows at both ends of the building, illuminating the hall’s vibrant white walls and detailed accents. This STEAM corridor, traversed daily by all students, centralizes and highlights the students’ collaborative projects.

The website for Eastern Aroostook RSU #39 has an extensive section on the project.

*Photography courtesy of Blind Dog Photography