• Academic needs/requirements can and should influence space planning.
• Buildings that were well-planned when new can be transformed to meet the needs of future generations, regardless of how old they are.
• The benefits of multiplexing a building into SLCs can be equally achieved even when some facilities are shared and common to all.
• Connections within and between the site and the surrounding communities should be developed and leveraged to benefit all stakeholders.
• School buildings have strong cultural, sentimental, and aesthetic value, which can be leveraged to strengthen relationships between past and future stakeholders.
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.

Cleveland High School
St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis, Missouri
Demolition of this historic high school is out of the question. But it could be reused for small learning communities.

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Cleveland High School was built in 1915 and graduated 91 classes before closing due to declining enrollment and severe maintenance problems. However, all agreed that demolishing the building would create unacceptable losses.
Photo: courtesy St. Louis Public Schools

St. Louis has many things going for it, but also some extraordinary challenges. The population losses suffered by the city since World War II have stabilized. The downtown is undergoing a renaissance, a new baseball stadium was completed recently, and new housing is being constructed there. In spite of these successes, the St. Louis Public School system has continued to decline. The number of students in the system during the 2006-07 school year was 32,700, but will likely drop to 30,000 this school year. The coming years will bring more challenges as 11,000 charter school seats become available. The challenges of preserving Cleveland High School's building, which is a community icon, are representative of those faced by many urban school districts.

Cleveland High School team, clockwise from left: Debra Irwin, executive director, Dutchtown South Community Corporation; Roger CayCe, executive director of facilities management, building commissioner; Deanna Anderson, assistant superintendent of operations; Amy Yurko, AIA, Brain Spaces; James Hoagland, AIA, JCJ Architecture
PhotosS © Bryan Becker

The Challenge

Cleveland High School is a historic landmark building, designed in 1915 by St. Louis architect William Butts Ittner. The building is one of two comprehensive high schools in South St. Louis and has capacity for 1,000 students. It was closed in June of 2006 due to severe maintenance issues as well as declining enrollments throughout the district. The district spends $5,800 per month to keep the building open and prevent further deterioration. However, there is a recognition among the various stakeholders that Cleveland is an important historic landmark and cannot be demolished—its loss would impact local businesses and cause conditions in the neighborhood to decline.

The Solution

The district representatives and resource team members explored many options during the charrette. A key starting point was the establishment of the idea that neighborhood representatives and the school district both favor renovation of the school for continued reuse as a comprehensive high school. And, in the process of rethinking of the school, the needs of the community will be considered to determine the potential for opening up the building for its use. Hopefully, renovating the building would help re-grow enrollment. The thrust of the planning is to preserve the building as a learning facility in order to safeguard it as a center of the community.

One option is that with district-wide downsizing occurring, parts of the central administration could be relocated here. Other options might include creating multiple, public-private partnerships to fund a collaborative renovation process, with a well-defined academic program that would re-establish the ROTC program formerly based at the school. A career education component that could include culinary arts, entrepreneurial training, or adult education, might also be appropriate.

Diagrams were used to explore the feasibility of breaking Cleveland into SLCs. 1) A general plan shows the school's layout. 2) A stacking diagram shows how different SLCs might be distributed over this four story building. 3) Applied learning labs can be placed at the four corners of the building. 4) Sections illustrate how lightwells could serve as SLC commons. 5) Four learning-lab types were developed.

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