CDS-PRE Hero (updated)

Children’s Day School Preschool

Elevating Play

A new early childhood education center nurtures development through sustainable design.

Responding to Constraints

Informed by the challenges of building within a confined urban campus, our approach to the new preschool at Children’s Day School (CDS) is rooted in a commitment to preserving and enhancing outdoor spaces while respecting the site’s rich historical context. The new low-profile, single-story building embraces the mid-block open space concept, elevating the play yard onto the roof and optimizing available space. Street-facing windows are strategically positioned above eye level to provide privacy for the students, while on the opposite side of the building, they extend to full height creating an open connection to the adjacent play yard. In response to the historical site context, the design draws inspiration from the school’s proximity to the original Mission Dolores and existing campus buildings. The combination of contemporary materials with those reminiscent of the classic Spanish style evokes a tangible connection to the site’s rich history while embracing a forward-looking vision.

Yard Aerial
Mission Dolores
Figure Ground Site Plan
CDS-PRE_NW Corner Hero

Living Legacy

A top priority in the design of the new preschool was the preservation of two beloved elm trees on the CDS campus. The project team collaborated extensively with arborists throughout the construction process to ensure the health and integrity of the century-old trees. The building massing is arranged with precise attention given to the positions of the existing trees, enabling them to thrive as essential elements within the new preschool’s design. An outdoor courtyard carefully weaves around the largest Elm, highlighting the tree as a focal point and integrating it within the built learning environment.

Presentation Site Plan
CDS-PRE SW Corner (cropped)
CDS-PRE Courtyard
ECP Courtyard Entry

Structural Sustainability

The design team conducted a thorough analysis of potential structural systems for the new preschool building, ultimately choosing a system of glue laminated (glulam) timber columns and beams, and a mass plywood panel (MPP) roof deck. In addition to their naturally beautiful appearance, these mass timber elements are renewable resources that provide strength, efficiency, and a capacity to sequester carbon dioxide. The structural elements are left intentionally exposed, reducing the need for extra finish materials and promoting a calm and comfortable biophilic environment for students to do their best learning.

CDS-PRE Sustainability Diagram
cds-pre-yard-from-gate v2
CDS-PRE Classroom towards Teaching Wall

Purposeful Play

JENSEN’s approach to early childhood programming at CDS centered around creating adaptable and engaging learning environments for a range of developmental stages. The new building encompasses three distinct programs: Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, and a Flex Classroom for use by older students. Following extensive programming sessions with teachers, the design team tailored spaces to cater to each age group’s unique educational needs and capabilities. Classrooms are thoughtfully organized around dedicated learning zones accommodating a variety of subjects, including areas for science, dramatic play, and sensory learning. Subtle, natural materials and radiant concrete floors promote a calming and balanced learning environment, while the strategic inclusion of accent colors provides each room with a unique identity.  The integration of flexible outdoor space, including the rooftop play yard, sheltered courtyard, and gardens, offers dynamic areas for growth and exploratory play. Playground spaces are carefully designed to meet each age group’s specialized motor skill requirements.

CDS-PRE Concept Design Booklet_REV 14
CDS-PRE Classroom towards Kitchenette
Art Room
Illustrative Landscape Plan_labels
Image Credit: Miller Company Landscape Architects
CDS-PRE Roof towards SJH
Children’s Day School
San Francisco


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Jennifer Redel
Chris Kalos
Project Team
Yusheen Yang
Chenyu Huang


Landscape Architect
Miller Company
MEP and Sustainability
Acoustic Arts & Engineering
Christopher Campbell Tree Design
dba Garden Guidance LLC
Martin M. Ron
Permit Expeditor
GBA Inc.


Guzman Construction Group
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