Renovation Creates New Sense of Identity and Welcome in Close-Knit School Community

Cairo-Durham Central School District

Cairo, New York

Situated in a close-knit, rural community in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Cairo-Durham Middle School/High School serves about 600 students in grades 6 through 12.

Embracing their role as town square for this underserved region, the district set out to rework their non-descript, underutilized building, built in 1978, to engender pride; facilitate community use; create a clear main entrance; improve safety; and modernize the learning environment.

Outside, traffic circulation was completely reworked to separate buses from parent drop off, visitor parking and student parking, enhancing student safety and the visitor experience. Visitors arriving at the elevated site from the long drive are met with a dramatic new canopy that defines the main entry, proclaims the school’s name, and shelters informal bench seating, establishing a strong sense of identity. Framed by the canopy, the media center addition is visible through a glass curtain wall.

Inside, public spaces including administration, nurse, guidance, and a new wellness center were pulled to the front of the building, where they are accessible to everyone. Creating this public zone up front enhances student safety while encouraging community use.

The new media center, with a fully glazed curtain wall to the north and clerestory windows to the south, is flooded with daylight, enhancing sustainability and the user experience. Organized in zones that promote student choice, the media center offers high-top tables, soft lounge seating, a collaborative café space, breakout rooms and a technology zone with custom designed, built-in future-proof tables.

Finishes throughout embrace the natural setting and harmonize with the existing palette, featuring warm wood tones, a palette of earth tones, and warm lighting. Sustainable rubber flooring in the new corridors mimics the slate existing in other areas.

New corridors are sized to accommodate bump-out benches and huddle areas that encourage socialization. Inspirational wall graphics activate these areas, featuring verbs provided by the district from their Positivity Project. New LED lighting throughout modernizes the space while saving energy. A lounge area across from the main entry doubles as a waiting area for the nurse, to encourage use given the lack of access to medical care in the community.

The renovated building is busy from early morning – with community users taking advantage of the free wellness center – until late, with the media center and meeting rooms booked up by school and community groups alike. Cairo Durham MS/HS now represents the “Mustang Pride” that’s always been there.

The following before image helps to demonstrate the dramatic impact of the entry canopy and media center addition.