2018—J. E. Rhodes Elementary School

Van ISD—J. E. Rhodes Elementary School
Architect: Harris Craig Architects, Inc.

A new PK – 1 elementary school replacing an existing f-3 tornado destroyed facility. A portion of the existing campus / site was repurposed for this new building. The new design re-oriented the campus to the community and re-organized for appropriate vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow, creating separate parent and bus traffic loops and consolidated access control.


After being partially destroyed in a F-3 tornado this elementary school was re-designed and constructed as a symbol of dedication to the history of and commitment to the future student success. In design meetings with school administrators and community leaders the feedback was that the school should present itself with the classical revival designs of the original 1936 school. From there, the design transforms into a modern teaching tool for modern students.


The design of this school uses carefully considered programmatic arrangement allowing expansion of the core with minimal interruption to the campus. Additionally, material selections with high durability and low maintenance were chosen. Making efficient use of the insurance claim allowed the district to maximize the return on the investment without undue tax burden on the small local community. The project came in under budget and allowed for more student investment.



Community—Star of DistinctionCommunity

The design process became a way of bringing the community together to re-build and re-commit themselves to the education of the students, which itself became part of the success of the project through community buy-in and participation. In various locations in the building and on-site, opportunities for placing or retaining original construction elements as built memories were introduced. These elements serve to tie the current students to their school home and history.


While the school was in construction an entire elementary was created from portable buildings. An interesting design exercise on its own, it reinforced the schedule and teamwork needed to make this a successful project. With a fast-paced schedule the project required intense collaboration with the district, architect, and construction manager. The design took advantage of the tornado destruction to convert a scattered elementary campus design and consolidate it into a single structure.

School Transformation

The central learning courtyard and shared core student learning spaces give teachers a variety of tools to educate their students. The courtyard features three distinct teaching zones, a series of winding paths, and a central colonnade with each column dedicated to state-wide college education (with metal-work created by the district’s CTE students). Students learn with their hands through a student garden and experience their history through salvaged cast stone elements.


Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner