Rockwall ISD—Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy
Together, we can create more opportunity for our students. This was the belief that guided the vision and design of the new college and career academy. The district partnered with a university and a community college on the project, which allows user groups to share resources/space and seamlessly integrate dual credit courses. The school environment feels collegiate and corporate, and extensive glazing puts the school’s programs on display.
The design of this academy promotes inspiration and exploration. Transparency puts learning on display, offering a visual sample of college/career opportunities and enabling cross-discipline collaboration. A student commons grounds the design and functions as a dining/social/assembly area, supporting the collegiate model. The school is a canvas—a clean, bright space in which the students and their projects add color and dimension.
Corridors double as small group spaces. The central commons serves as the cafeteria and social hub. At night, college partners continue to make use of the building for classes. Flexibility and shared use are key. Several classrooms can be opened and reconfigured into larger space. The robotics arena can be transformed for fashion shows or other expositions. The lecture hall can be used for events or teacher training. Lab spaces have plug & play utilities and can be re-purposed as needs evolve.
The environment enhances productivity and connects learners to the outdoors with views to the surrounding landscape from every area and natural light in all spaces. Materials were selected for durability, longevity and ease of maintenance. The design includes low-e glazing, LED lighting, a white single-ply roof with low solar index, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency HVAC, local materials and a rooftop learning patio.
The design of the academy represents and honors the community. The blend of exterior materials stays true to local traditions while looking to the future. Community spaces are located throughout the school, and an outdoor plaza/amphitheater offers a unique pre-event space. Local workforce partners enhance program offerings. Large, welcoming doors invite community members to come inside and observe learning. A student-run bistro serves visitors and caters public functions.
The design process included thoughtful and collaborative planning sessions to validate the space program, identify expanding needs in degree paths, examine local workforce needs and develop opportunities for dual-credit courses. Program emphasis was placed on STEAM and professional course offerings with design solutions that promote collaboration and serendipitous engagement. District personnel and college partners worked side by side to plan thoughtful protocols, adjacencies and security.
“The new school allows students to have a real world, technical, hands-on experience.”—School administrator The academy prepares students for college and for today’s jobs. Certifications, practicums, exposure to industry equipment and interactions with local companies are some of the opportunities available to students. The design of the school lends itself to project-based, student-led learning. In collaboration spaces, students across programs collaborate like they would in the workforce.
Star of Distinction Category Winner