Rocky Mountain Deaf School
A free charter school for deaf and hard of hearing children and young adults that incorporates DeafSpace Principles and community input into a highly-tailored learning environments.
2017 Peak Merit Award, A4LE Rocky Mountain Chapter
Jefferson County Public Schools
The Rocky Mountain Deaf School (RMDS) is a charter school for deaf and hard of hearing children and young adults with a distinguished history in Colorado, continually evolving to implement best practices in educating deaf and hard of hearing children. After receiving a 2011 BEST Grant to build a new PK-12 campus in suburban Denver, Anderson Mason Dale was engaged to design a facility that supports the educational mission of the school and the aspirations of the broader deaf community.
The new school and campus are reflective of the outcomes of a community-based design process in consultation with the founder of the DeafSpace Project, Hansel Bauman. Bauman, in conjunction with the ASL Deaf Studies Department at Gallaudet University, authored the “DeafSpace Guidelines” that informed RMDS’s tailored design. The principles are described as “a catalogue of design elements that address the five major touch points between deaf experiences and the built environment: space and proximity, sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and finally acoustics. Common to all of these categories are the ideas of community building, visual language, the promotion of personal safety and well-being.”
From concept to reality, the DeafSpace principles are evident in the resulting school design, comprised of educational program and support areas for pre-K through 12th grades including classrooms, art rooms, science labs, a library media center, audio testing rooms, occupational and physical therapy rooms, computer rooms, an auditorium, gymnasium, cafeteria, courtyard, and administration facilities. The architecture of the building promotes ideal conditions for visual communication, exemplified by clerestory windows situated to provide diffuse lighting conditions and widened corridors that provide adequate side-by-side signing space. Acoustics are addressed through the use of materials that reduce background noise and reverberation, minimizing distractions while creating an environment that supports RMDS’s goal to create a physical place that inspires students to think, learn, achieve, and care.