Spero Academy

Spero Academy lockers

Spero Academy

A Place to Learn, Grow, Succeed and Thrive

Spero Academy is a public K-6 elementary charter school that provides a national model of tailored education for children with special needs. In order to accommodate planned programming expansion and to meet the growing demand for Academy services, Spero hired HDR to help them design a new school building that embodied their mission.

The team’s design process was informed by emerging research and best practices on spaces for children with special needs and focused discussions with Spero Academy staff related to ideal learning environments for the student population. 

Key features of the final design include:

  • A two-story main entrance with ample exterior glazing that brings in daylight, provides views to nature and creates a sense of connectivity to the surrounding community.
  • A floor plan that distinctly separates high-stimulus zones (e.g., gym, cafeteria, entrance) from low-stimulus zones (e.g., classrooms, media lab, speech room) with transition zones in between, allowing students to recalibrate their senses as they move from one zone to the next.
  • A subdued color palette with soft gradations of color in low stimulus zones and slightly more vibrancy in high stimulus zones.
  • Building materials, interior finishes and equipment thoughtfully selected to limit off-gassing, creating healthier indoor environments for students.
Spero Academy lockers
Spero Academy

Minneapolis, MN
United States

64,000 sf (5,900 m²)


Gold Level Award (2021)
Evidence-Based Design Touchstone Awards
Center for Health Design
Certificate of Research Excellence (2020)
Environmental Design Research Association
Certificate of Research Excellence Award (2020)
Environmental Design Research Association
Inspiration Award, Winner (2019)
Contract Magazine