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Dallas ISD Taps SHW for New High School Campus Design

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Putting a collegiate spin on traditional high school education, Dallas-based SHW Group designed the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy for Dallas Independent School District’s early college program.

“In the beginning, we sat down with DISD’s teachers, principal, students and a facilitator to ask the ‘what if’ questions,” Konrad Judd, SHW principal and lead designer in the North Texas studio, tells Texas Construction. “It was a unique process. We also partnered with Cambridge, which is full of experienced educators, to talk about the facility and the educational delivery.”

Calling the facility a “truly transitional environment,” Judd says the learning facility takes students into a collegiate environment from high school.

“Everything from the finishes, materials and the space, itself, feels more like a university,” Judd says. “Also the activities they have give the students a sense of independence and responsibility.”

The design is incorporated around collaborative commons in a plaza-like space, he says. It houses a media/library and a dining/multi-use event and collaborative space for students that is similar to that found on a university campus, he says.

Other interstitial spaces have niches of furniture, enclosed conference spaces and a different mix of spaces where student can study individually or in a group with project-based learning and approaches, Judd says.

“This is not a corridor with classes on each side,” Judd adds. “The dining and media library is different from a traditional high school. The students have something progressive that might feel as if they were walking into a junior college or university.”

This is preparing them for college, he says. Another unique feature is the incorporation of individual teacher offices similar to a college campus. That provides a place where students and teachers can meet in a way that is more like a college.

“The space is what we called the perch, like a bird perch, which sits atop an open two-story,” Judd says. Large “peek-a-boo” windows look into classrooms and open spaces. “DISD is excited about what that means for the staff and the access the students will have.”

Upper-level students are placed on collaborative open multi-use spaces on the lower floor while the younger students are on the second floor with more immediate access to teachers and offices. It is all designed with transitioning students, he adds.

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