After Rosa Parks Elementary was declared seismically unsafe following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Berkeley Unified School District realized its vision of creating a community-oriented beacon school to serve the community and become a model for urban areas throughout the nation. Working closely with the district, teachers, and community members, Ratcliff planned and designed a new K-5 school that provides pre-school, before- and after-school childcare programs, a Learning Resource Center for students and parents, as well as space for family programs, counseling, and healthcare services.
Composed of a series of buildings which fit comfortably into the existing residential neighborhood, classrooms are clustered to provide varied programs where ideas, materials and resources are shared in a mutually supportive learning environment. Color is cleverly used to enhance forms and shapes and differentiate special spaces and buildings. For example, the Reading Resource Room uses a classic schoolhouse red to proclaim its importance at the very center of the site while its shape evokes the water towers that were part of the neighborhood’s historic fabric.