2017—David Lee “Tex” Hill Middle School

North East ISD—David Lee “Tex” Hill Middle School
Architect: Pfluger Architects

“Tex” Hill Middle School resulted from North East ISD’s 2007 Bond Program. The middle school was designed to support continuing growth in the local Johnson High School attendance area. Tex Hill is constructed on a relatively flat, 81-acre District-owned site and has a classroom capacity for 1250 students and core facilities capable of supporting 1500 students. The middle school design is based on achieving a LEED facility rating.


The campus design facilitates student flow with a double ‘main street’ on two levels, linking classroom wings to common spaces. Classrooms are grouped in three distinct wings, intended for grade level designation. Each wing incorporates group learning spaces, inside and outside classrooms. The school includes a unique learning opportunity in the 33-foot Foucault pendulum suspended from the upper level, demonstrating the earth’s rotation. It is the only such pendulum in public space in Texas.


Construction costs were mitigated by leaving areas of the site undeveloped, reducing infrastructure and long-term maintenance, while accommodating further use of the site in the future. The sustainability process was a motivator for the district to reduce energy costs. After its first year of operation, the school has significantly lower energy costs than nearby middle schools. This directly benefits the building occupants, and the campus has one of the highest attendance rates in the District.


The district approached LEED by maintaining its own best practices, while also implementing the necessary changes identified within the more rigorous 2012 LEED for Schools. Tex Hill has been recognized LEED Gold based on achievements in each category. Sustainable materials enhance the school’s character and reduce long-term maintenance. A new area for copiers in the teacher’s work room permits higher air exchange rates, following the precepts of LEED and enhancing indoor air quality for staff.


The District looked to create a new middle school for an underserved and growing portion of the area. The District was able to procure land that placed the campus close to neighborhoods, providing pedestrian and bicycle access to school, while avoiding vehicular traffic. The green belt running along the site was preserved by limiting the campus footprint in a two-story volume. Play fields can be used by the community after hours and on weekends, with available nearby parking.


The District’s primary intent was on grade-level learning by creating a ‘house’ for each grade. The design offers a designated area that separates students by age while promoting teacher collaboration and ‘team-teaching.’ Each house included two conference / planning rooms, a work area, and shared computer space. The planning team identified a ‘floating’ rotation which depicted how an additional teaching team could be incorporated into each house without necessitating either portable classroom.

School Transformation

This district found that the arrangement of its middle school directly benefits its students, by not just ‘making spaces’ but rather ‘creating places’, so that students can learn individually, in small groups, as a class, or in a multi-class setting. Middle schoolers are expected to begin identifying their areas of distinction, which are critical to high school graduation requirements. Introductory learning labs play a role in introducing students to skills they can acquire in high school.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner