Dimmitt ISD—Richardson Elementary
Architect: Parkhill, Smith & Cooper
This 79,874 s.f. new elementary school is designed to offer educators and 660 students spaces that respond to their diverse educational needs. The students are separated into 6 learning neighborhoods: Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades in one “community” and 3rd, 4th and 5th grades detached but in another community. Each community is designed to give younger and older age groups a sense of place. Flexible and adaptable classroom arrangements surround a collaborative hub.
The compact plan reduces travel time/distance to all spaces. Separation of K-2 and 3-5 age groups creates smaller learning communities. Direct access is provided to outdoors from each Neighborhood. 2 pairs of classrooms in each neighborhood share a folding partition, allowing multiple learning settings such as co-teaching. Classrooms surround a collaborative Hub. Educators can quickly differentiate the learning setting. This facility responds to the many learning styles students have.
The school’s compact plan reduced building envelope and circulation area. This efficiency saved construction costs which were devoted to systems that promoted flexibility. A smaller building envelope reduces surface area through which energy escapes. Classrooms and collaborative hubs receive daylight without use of an inefficient “winged plan”, reducing reliance on artificial lighting. The building’s site- angle enhances these efficiencies to minimize the total cost of ownership to the District.
Most classrooms receive abundant daylighting. All collaborative Hub spaces receive daylighting from clerestory windows. Direct sunlight entering classrooms is limited by canopies and awnings. Landscaping materials such as drought tolerant Desert Bermuda and aggregate gravel beds reduce stormwater runoff and precious water resources for irrigation in this arid region. Energy analysis influenced building orientation on site resulting an estimated annual savings of $100,000 in function 51 funds.
Prior to constructing this new elementary school, the site was the location of the original deteriorating elementary and the long-vacant junior high. The vacant buildings became a neighborhood eyesore and targets for vandalism. The budget for this new school included funds to demolish the dilapidated buildings. This new campus has created a new sense of place for this community. Materials, and forms borrow from the regional context to create a campus that reflects this community’s spirit.
Designers initiated a traffic study to improve campus traffic flow and pedestrian safety. They also observed educators/students in their classrooms, and, reviewed District PDL training on co-teaching and collaboration. A visioning charrette with educators, administrators and community members highlighted flexible educational space. Tours of schools with flexible neighborhoods influenced educators’ decisions. Citizens/stakeholders requested an exterior aesthetic that “belonged in this community”
Planning the new elementary focused on connections with the community, parents, and, the students, of which 88% are economically disadvantaged. Since opening the new school parent involvement has doubled in the ACE after-school program. The Robotics Team has been recognized by TEA, test scores are up, and function 51 costs are down. Exterior design and site planning increased safety and transformed the neighborhood. Availability of new flexible spaces has resulted in soaring community usage.
Star of Distinction Category Winner