The first high school constructed in the community in 50+ years, the program for this campus breaks ranks from traditional learning environments. As one of the most diverse large districts in Texas (and 2nd largest employer in the region), the owner knew input of an entire community of stakeholders would be paramount in the planning process. New educational initiatives established by the district, community, and students all helped develop the program (with core spaces designed for 3,000).
This project prioritized the creation of standalone learning communities within the larger school. Each community is a self-sufficient school within a school, including all activities and support spaces that categorize the educational experience. Each community showcases an “entry porch” flanked by administration spaces for APs and counselors. Teacher collaboration is entrenched in the communities with workrooms that spill into the collaboration spaces (each different in shape and furniture).
A sweeping, cantilevered roof plane offers a character-defining sense of entry. Masonry, stucco and steel materials give voice to contemporary forms and geometries that create a stylistic expression representative of the community. Inside, redefined educational initiatives place a premium on collaboration spaces and small learning communities create a sense of place. A lateral “Learning Street” extends between commons spaces and academic wing to tie the building together.
Significant research took place prior to design, starting with a reassessment of the district’s educational approach. This appraisal led to a series of community visioning sessions that reviewed the impact of the built environment on learning, as well as a variety of pedagogies and instructional approaches to enhance learning. The visioning sessions included community reps, district personnel, and students. Tours of similar schools were conducted and a community-based design Charrette employed.
Both LEED and TX-CHPS design principles are employed. Abundant daylighting is provided through low-e, hurricane-resistant, insulated glazing on all exterior fenestration. Lighting, IAQ, acoustics, and thermal comfort were key drivers in the planning formula. Exterior masonry and stucco offer recyclable properties, as well as resistance to the high humidity and salt content of the coastal community. Construction waste management practices were a big part of the project’s sustainability profile.
The planning process was inherently transformational given the context of the project. Priorities centered on student success, campus safety and community access. To this end, the design responds with self-sufficient small learning communities (SLCs). The communities are inwardly focused, but supported by active environments found in the library and commons spaces. The school separates the SLC’s horizontally and vertically, but promotes integration through connecting collaboration spaces.
Star of Distinction Category Winner