2017—Bethke Elementary School

Katy ISD—Bethke Elementary School
Architect: VLK Architects

This two-story collaborative learning environment is organized to house specific grade levels while providing collaboration areas for each team. The overall building allows natural light into classrooms to promote student comfort and achievement. Two stories of science labs offer outdoor access with a balcony for older students, while the library media center is an active learning area. Teachers meet, plan and review data in their Instructional Design Area explicit for grade level needs.


The stakeholder-inspired design allows for ease of student circulation and supervision. Two stories of classrooms provide grade level specific areas complete with collaboration areas for various student groups to accomplish project needs. Views are provided throughout the building to support achievement and promote a healthy learning environment. Much of the outdoor green space was designed for student learning with a variety of instructional tools.

ValueValue—Star of Distinction

The project bid under its budget, while providing high efficiency HVAC systems, natural lighting in all classrooms to reduce artificial lighting needs, and low maintenance, durable materials. Local and regional materials were sourced that take their clues from the adjacent residential development. The two-story plan was more cost efficient to construct and reduces the required site size while providing for a more compact, secure learning environment.


The client understands that sustainability is critical for our global environment. This project is aligned with Texas CHPS principles in order to endorse important sustainability issues that are important to the community. Specifically, design attributes that reduce operating costs, promote higher student performance, inspire daily attendance, maintain quality staff, and minimize the environmental impact of a new facility were used.


Three Outdoor Learning Courtyards supporting the library media center, art, and science, involve students in the exterior space of the building. The building beckons community partnership with access to public spaces such as the cafeteria, gym and fine arts areas. The designed openness of the outdoor areas allows for learning to spill into the community and not be contained within the walls. Texas CHPS principles were also used, as the community values a low impact to our environment.

PlanningPlanning—Star of Distinction

An inquiry based charrette created a collaborative process that defined the goals of the project. Stakeholders produced a conceptual framework for the design of the school that celebrates and inspires learning while providing for ease of student circulation. Two stories of classrooms accomplished a compact design with flexibility for various and multiple learning environments. The library media center promotes collaboration while a centralized common learning stair beacons active learning.

School TransformationTransformation—Star of Distinction

Innovative spaces provide for transformed instruction. Students experience an extension of their learning environment with innovative areas outside classrooms. Students can take their technology needs with them around the school., and recharge their devices. Large group areas allow teachers to design lessons for a variety of curricular needs as well as a student group size. Classrooms are uniquely shaped allowing for personalization of space based on curriculum and instruction needs.


Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner