2018— Highland Park Elementary School #5

Highland Park ISD—Highland Park Elementary School #5
Architect: Stantec

Schools in this top performing district date back to the early 20th century and are cherished by the residents, with many children attending the same schools their parents once did. To help address the aging facilities and population growth, the district built a new elementary school, the first in 70 years. With limited sites available, the district chose a very small, four-acre site with a 20-foot fall. The challenging site resulted in a three-story building with an underground parking garage.


The new elementary school design is anchored on the values that make this community unique: residential context, pedestrian scale, and green space

  • Design goals improved educational delivery, optimized efficiencies and adjacencies, and provided a sustainable learning environment
  • Each collaboration space is adjacent to an outdoor classroom, extending learning into the outdoors
  • The main entry plaza prioritizes green space and can be used for both after-school and community activities


Value to the district, students, and community was realized through:

  • Shared-use indoor/outdoor recreational spaces for the community and school
  • Compact, vertical building design lowered construction costs
  • Lower operating costs – Energy usage reduced 25% below the IECC baseline, and water usage reduced by 20%
  • Improved health, safety, and security of building occupants by increasing air filtration and removing fluorescent fixtures to eliminate mercury


Designed to exceed the 2009 Texas Collaborative for High Performance Schools, the school employs four basic strategies to minimize the building’s impact on the environment and increase the quality of the interior environment:

  • Site strategies to reduce land use, decrease reliance on the automobile, and prevent heat island effect
  • Increased water and energy efficiency
  • Use of sustainable materials
  • Increased indoor environmental strategies


As the first new elementary school in the district in over 70 years, the design creates a new building identity within an existing neighborhood containing a rich history and several architectural styles. The community’s love for greenspace in their neighborhoods translated into a ‘park’ concept for the building’s interior, expressed through spatial arrangements, circulation, and interior finishes and materials. Exterior spaces include the community garden and open spaces for community use.


This school is the culmination of a five-year planning process. Faced with facilities that no longer meet their educational goals and did not provide sufficient capacity for future growth, the district had to create and implement a plan to update their current schools. Partnering with the architects, the district embarked in a facility assessment study that set the stage for their community engagement strategy.

School Transformation

With a new school, the district now offers several transformative spaces that redefine the learning environment, including:

  • Open collaborative spaces that allow flexible learning environments
  • Large group instructional spaces for multiple users: entire grade levels, teachers, and the community at large
  • Broadcast studio for students to write and film their own works
  • Two outdoor learning courtyards, supporting teaching in the natural environment and encouraging hands on learning

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner