2017—Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary School

Midlothian ISD—Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary School
Architect: VLK Architects

This new, compact, one story transformational learning environment is visually open and makes excellent use of space. The client required innovative instructional methods and the interior spaces support this expectation. The design provides a variety of choices for task-focus or casual spaces, giving students responsibility for their own learning, while teachers facilitate. Instead of traditional classrooms, grades are organized into learning communities feature collaboration spaces.


Various learning zones are created to accommodate each student’s learning preference, be it focused, active or collaborative. The open design provides connectivity, transparency, and inclusivity while promoting informal supervision. Support spaces give way to learning. The cafetorium is a collaboration and performance space. The library is designed as the globally specialized maker space. Even the exterior, normally reserved for play or support, becomes spaces for active learning.


The school itself is a tool for learning with all spaces providing the students a choice in their education. All surfaces within can be used for learning, while outdoor spaces provide further opportunities to explore and experiment. Simple, cost effective materials are utilized to support learning; frosted glass doubles as writing walls, floor to ceiling marker wall covering is used as the classroom learning walls, and a variety of paint colors are used to differentiate grade levels.


State-of-the-art high efficiency roof top HVAC units, local and regional materials, and 100% LED lighting are some sustainable features. Ample natural light permeates every classroom, learning space and collaboration hub, reducing electricity. The envelope integrates high performance insulated glass with a continuously insulated wall system, surpassing minimum standards. Indoor air quality is improved via low VOC materials, increased outdoor air changes, C02 sensors and low maintenance products.


The exterior reflects community values, while an innovative environment within aligns with their expectations for education. As a district showcase, the school is a beacon for community by making available the gym, cafetorium, library, and outdoor play and learning spaces. Small maker spaces and grade level teacher planning centers inspire a sense of collaboration and community. The building serves to ignite the community by exposing it to the transformational maker space educational approach.


The vision was defined by stakeholders in a charrette process which resulted in developing design strategies that supported goals to inspire, celebrate, and create. The design was driven to support project-based curriculum and a variety of student learning preferences. The process went beyond the project to redefine the entire district’s belief about active learning spaces; thus recreating its culture.

School TransformationTransformation—Star of Distinction

Unique spaces provide inspiration for learning from individual to collaborative. From indoor personal spaces to collaborative outdoor spaces, education happens everywhere. The instructional model and the building design supports hands-on learning tailored to individual learning styles that allow students to develop their critical thinking, problem solving and presentation skills through collaborative and team-based opportunities.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner