+ Suspend certainty. What would you accomplish if you knew you could not fail?
+ Focus on the intellectual, physical, and social needs of students.
+ Establish a clear vision.
+ Allow the “Aha!” moment to emerge.
+ Avoid “What is.” Focus on “What is possible!”
+ Participation by an expanded group of patrons, educators, community, and students creates ownership of the solution.
+ Responding to the needs of parents, students, teachers, and community results in more meaningful solutions.
+ Create “culture change” by redefining the physical nature of traditional learning environments.
Building Great K-12 Schools in Economically Challenging Times
In these tough times making good school design decisions has never been more difficult or more important. To find out how some of the nation’s top architects and administrators are coping with these challenges attend Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century Symposium. It will be held Friday, April 9th, at the Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago, the day before the NSBA Conference. The event is free of charge and is being presented with the support of McGraw-Hill Education and the American Architectural Foundation.

Click here for more information.

Central High School
Carroll County Schools, Carroll County, Georgia
Here’s what can happen when a district must replace an obsolete school, and building elsewhere is not an option.
By Charles Linn, FAIA

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Carroll County Schools is a fast-growing school district about 50 miles west of Atlanta. The County currently serves 15,000 students at 24 schools that vary in age and quality. The student population grew 5 percent between the 2005 and 2006 school years, which presents the district with many challenges in planning for and meeting Carroll County students’ facility needs.

Seated: Stephen M. McCune, AIA, Southern A&E; Pat Bosch, Perkins+Will; CCS superintendent John Zauner. Standing: David Goldberg, CCS facilities development officer; Roy Denney, Southern A&E; John Weekes, AIA, Dull Olson Weekes Architects. Photo © Bryan Becker.

The Challenge
The needs of one of Carroll County Schools’ campuses, Central High School, typify those of many high schools in the U.S. It currently supports 1,500 students and is expected to grow to 1,800 in the coming years. It is located adjacent to a retail center and a highway that connects the county to Atlanta. Educationally, the success of students varies. It has a strong sense of tradition, and the community expects academic rigor. However, as is typical of most U.S. high schools, 30 percent of students do not graduate, and many of its educational programs appeal only to a small fraction of those who do attend.

Over the life of the school, the community has donated $10 million to upgrade the athletic venues. But, the buildings that house the school are old and need functional upgrades, and are in fact, overshadowed by the higher-quality athletic facilities. The school district has considered replacing Central. Because of substantial volunteer investments in the athletic fields, the limited availability of land in the area, and tight economic resources, the school district had determined that improving Central by a phased demolition and replacement of the existing buildings provided the greatest opportunity for success. The hope is that this renewal would substantially improve the attitude, capabilities, and educational opportunities of Central’s students, as well as elevating the character and atmosphere of the campus to convey educational excellence, innovation, and tradition.

An initial architectural study by the school district indicated that demolition of existing campus buildings and their replacement would need to be implemented in phases. That study proposed that a series of two-story classroom blocks be placed in rows behind a combination administration and library building that would demarcate the front of the campus. The initial development would consist of a two-story, ninth-grade academy located in available open space on the south end of the campus, with future classroom buildings replacing existing facilities over time. The main gym and athletic fields would remain as they were.

Solution Statement
At the charrette, the resource team architects’ discussions with Carroll County Schools Superintendent John Zaune revealed that the original architectural concepts did not address certain requirements and expectations needed to create a functional educational program. Based on these conversations a set of vision-based planning principals was established, and a new campus plan was developed from these.

At a conceptual level, the new campus plan for Central High School is based on a series of building blocks. These compact blocks are envisioned to be three stories high to minimize the footprint of the entire building, and reduce the impacts of phased demolition/rebuilding cycles. The smaller building footprints also create expanded opportunities to develop exterior learning and gathering places.

At another level, a series of planning patterns were identified for the campus. These patterns are intended to support the educational program by informing the organization and relationship of the building blocks and defining the nature of space within each of them. Overall, the utilization of “building blocks” and “planning patterns” created a “kit of parts” with which a new campus master plan was developed.

The proposed new campus places building blocks around a central courtyard. Students enter the courtyard through the main entry, which is divided into two zones: an active learning area called the Lion’s Den, and a passive landscape area adjacent to the media and cafeteria block. This building block is envisioned as the beacon for the campus. The cafeteria is three stories in height, starting on the main level, and is capable of being expanded into the courtyard later. The library is to “encounter the cafeteria” in a new social and dynamic three-story space, similar to a “cyber cafe.” It will have access to the playing fields, courtyards, allow for views during the day, and serve as a community center at night. Two learning blocks bind the courtyard on its east and west ends. These learning blocks contain a new ninth-grade academy, professional technical programs, and learning spaces for grades 10 through 12. Rather then understanding these blocks as classroom buildings, they are envisioned as centers of learning. They are agile in nature, and capable of accommodating a variety of activities and teaching-learning needs on their three levels. Further, it is envisioned that the facility will  be interconnected vertically with multistory volumes, circulation pathways, and extended learning areas.