Building for Student Well-being

Room: D139-140

Audience: Architects and Educators

Call to Action: To prioritize student well being from an educational planning, building planning, and architectural design perspectives:

  1. Emphasize teaming: Consider the educational planning and academic teaming as concentric rings of support around each student. Student support and identity begin from the classroom and expand out to the team, to the “neighborhood”, to the grade, and finally, to the entire school. Each ring of support contains and requires its own infrastructure.
  2. Consider what is next: Promote each students’ path to self-discovery through multiple opportunities and modes for learning. It is never too early to spark an interest through authentic learning and making. Expanded opportunities in the arts, performing arts, STEM, and digital media increase student well-being, sense of community, and empathy.
  3. Exhibit your commitment: Broadcast your mission and vision. Graphics are a critical way to present your support for students and provide identity that can be literally “applied” to the school. These graphics, designed collaboratively with educators, administrators, and students, can present complicated ideas that take time to comprehend and appreciate.

It is this commitment at all levels to equity, learning, discovery and student well-being that define a school’s culture.

Abstract: When the Town of Weymouth decided to build the largest middle school in Massachusetts, cost effectiveness and community equity were key drivers. Once the decision was made, supporting each student’s well-being became the central goal of the project’s educational planning, building planning, and architectural design. The district created multiple opportunities by building a single new middle school to serve all of Weymouth’s 6th-8th grade population. These include reducing the number of school transitions, returning the fifth grade to the elementary schools, and repurposing the existing middle school to create a Family Welcome Center for new families including Weymouth’s growing immigrant population. Additionally, creating a single large school assures equal access to the new state-of-the-art facility, increasing diversity, and pooling key resources to allow for greater educational opportunities. Success for this project relied upon a durable consensus and clear vision, formed by a broad coalition of stake holders. Community support was essential and key concepts for how planning and design can serve student wellbeing find their origins in community visioning. These key concepts include teacher teaming to create small learning communities within the larger school and how to structure these teams for 6th graders differently than for older students. The community visioning also led to a family-wrap-around-services-center, a communal memorial garden and a community fitness walking loop, and a variety of innovative teaching and learning spaces. The new school represents a significant expansion of pedagogical opportunities to both support core academics and serve as an introduction and feeder into the high school’s career technical programs. The new school includes state-of-the-art labs revolving around teaching themes: film production/broadcasting, culinary and nutrition, metal/wood fabrications, robotics lab/app development, expeditionary learning, and theater and technical production. These labs aim at sparking students’ interests and hooking them for lifelong learning. They serve as introductory feeders to the high school’s career tech programs to start students along a path that support development of careers and interests. The entire team, including the community, owners, designers, and construction managers, was dedicated to making the best decisions for the students, focusing on how to achieve a result that at every step increased student well-being. In this session, James Liebman, AIA, HMFH Architects, and Matthew Meehan, Director of Educational Facilities Planning, Weymouth, MA, will cover the educational planning and design concepts and their implementation, as well as lessons learned.

Learning Objectives:
The four learning objectives are as follows:

  1. Learn how educational planning can revolve around the idea of increasing student well-being through the creation of concentric rings of support for each students, starting with teacher teams, expanding to educational neighborhoods, expanding again to grade identity, and finally to the whole school.
  2. Understand how educational opportunities can increase well-being, allowing students to discover their own interests, and tapping into those interests to spark life long learners.
  3. Understand how a school’s building planning can evolve from the educational plan and how this will assure that the facility itself is focused on student well-being.
  4. See how architectural design impacts well-being including access to useful natural light and views, carefully tuned acoustics, fresh and clean air, and healthy durable materials.
  5. Understand how a focus on the whole child can lead to the implementation of elements that improve the whole communities well-being including a Wrap-Around-Sevices-Center with light clinical and social work spaces, a community fitness loop, community and school playgrounds, memorial garden, and an 850 seat community theater that is cherished by the whole town.
Matthew Meehan
Matthew Meehan
Director of Educational Facilities Planning, Town of Weymouth, MA

Matthew has over 20 years experience as an educational leader with expertise in educational visioning, planning, master scheduling and expanding learning opportunities. He excels in design/development of curriculum, creation of small learning environments and education facilities assessments. He has been a Curriculum Coordinator, Vice Principal and most recently Principal of the Chapman Middle School. He is participating in A4LE’s 2024 Advanced Academy to become ALEP certified.

James Liebman, AIA
James Liebman, AIA
Senior Associate, HMFH Architects

James is an architect and Senior Associate at HMFH with 25 years of experience in the industry. As a Project Architect and Project Manager, he brings an innate ability to balance conceptual design with stakeholder input to create beautiful, functional schools that enhance student well-being. James is currently a member of the Massachusetts Building Congress and has experience working across the globe from Scotland, to New York, to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Core Competency

Design of Educational Facilities
Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

LearningSCAPES 2024 Conference in Portland, Oregon


Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97232


October 16-19, 2024


+1 480.391.0840