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Washington Elementary School

Cañon City, CO


Connecting through experience of place.

In 2018 the Cañon City School District retained the design-build team of RTA Architects and GE Johnson to design and construct a new Washington Elementary School on the existing site and assist with a BEST Grant application. The existing Washington Elementary was aging and in need of structural, plumbing, and life safety upgrades.


Ever curious. Ever learning. Ever improving.

RTA worked closely with Washington Elementary School stakeholders and led seven meetings with the 25-member Design Advisory Group (DAG) where staff, teachers, and District personnel had opportunities to evaluate the site options and classroom concepts.

Phased construction was needed to ensure the site remained safely operational. Phase one of the project consisted of constructing the new school, while phase two focused on the demolition of the existing school and completion of the site development work. 


Purposeful, engaging solutions.

Classroom design for the new Washington Elementary School is centered around 21st Century learning communities. Each learning community consists of two grades, a learning commons, teacher collaboration space, small group spaces, and teacher storage. The Art space features a connection to an outdoor classroom and is strategically located next to the two-story Library to allow for cross pollination of activities between the two.

The Commons is the “heart” of the school and also acts as the hub or entrance space for the Media Center, Music Room, Administration, and kitchen serving area. The Commons also features large garage doors to allow activities to spill outdoors. Energy efficiency was also a significant focus of the design, and the project is pursuing LEED Gold certification with high-performance energy-efficient MEP and irrigation systems, extensive daylighting, and native landscaping.

Project Details

  • Square footage: 48,291 sf 
  • Project cost: $20.7M 

Design Details

  • BEST Grant assistance
  • Multi-phased construction
  • 21st Century education environments with learning communities, teacher collaboration spaces, learning commons, and flexible furnishings
  • Maker space
  • Collaborative design with the DAG and the District
  • Pursuing LEED Gold certification
  • Energy-efficient MEP and irrigation systems
  • Extensive daylighting
  • Art patio and outdoor classroom
  • Photography by David Lauer Photography


  • 2022 ACE Award, Contribution to the Community, presented by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Colorado
  • 2021 Best Education Project, presented by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) Rocky Mountain Region