2021—C.E. King High School

Sheldon ISD—C.E. King High School
Architect: Huckabee

The district is in the petrochemical corridor in unincorporated Houston. It serves a richly diverse population. Known for industry, it traditionally has not been recognized for its schools. As a tight-knit community, the replacement of their high school (a 50-year-old building) on a new site presented bold opportunities. The rebirth of the high school was deeply embraced. It is iconic, a destination for personalized learning, and a symbol that all students deserve high-quality education.

Design—Star of DistinctionDesign

A desire for academic and social personalization began in the old high school, yet the aging building’s congested hallways and infrastructure were limiting. History carried forward in the new high school, along with a unique approach to individualized learning. Six academies form schools of choice within the larger ecological system; these “living laboratories” for learning, personal identity, and intellectual needs align with the state’s five endorsements plus an Early College High School.


The new high school delivers value in three key areas: structural, functional and aesthetic. Tilt-wall helped maximize the timeline on a fast-track schedule. The site and building were engineered to mitigate damage and risk from major weather events. The infrastructure of six academies was designed using a modular framework that is adaptable from day-to-day and primed for future evolution without major construction. A modest budget was thoughtfully used to add value to students and community.

Sustainability—Star of DistinctionInnovation

The organization turns traditional spatial relationships within a high school inside-out; key elements of civic, social, and learning experiences are arranged in order of purpose and function. The entry is a beacon that establishes identity. Civic functions—athletics and performing arts—are prominently placed near the entry. The main spine welcomes users into a 3-story commons that flows without formal definition. Circulation was not an afterthought; it plays into a sentiment of connection.

Community—Star of DistinctionCommunity

The district represents its small community; many Board and community members are alumni. They have always invested in students, but the rebirth of their high school presented a once-in-a-lifetime chance to imprint a lasting, life-changing legacy. Through architecture, site, amenities, and learning environment, the community created a destination that serves a civic purpose, is iconic, and presents opportunities that have never before been available to this richly diverse population.

Planning—Star of DistinctionPlanning

The Board and community set three goals: Create a nationally recognized high school for personalized learning, create a community icon and a regional destination, and master plan a civic-minded campus. They saw the rebirth of their high school as a chance to emerge from the shadows of surrounding districts and give students life-changing opportunities. In planning they refined their identity, expressed a desire for high-quality execution, and discussed how to meet the needs of all students.

Transformation—Star of DistinctionSchool Transformation

“To see where we come from and where we are going, you get emotional. To see what’s taking place, that’s something big.” District students deserve the best. This was foundational to their goals: nationally recognized, personalized learning, civic purpose. The high school—located on a prominent site—is transformational. It is an icon, a beacon of hope, a civic heart. Students are engaged, eager to be present, the result of new spaces, programs and visual accouterments that inspire sense of place.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner