VLK Architects

The Next Generation of High Schools

Opening a new high school doesn’t happen very often. In the ever-growing Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex, a couple, if any, may open each year. A high school is an important part of a community that has been missing for the area of the US 380 corridor. Students within the growing population in this area, east of Lewisville Lake, north of Little Elm, and west of Frisco and Prosper have been bussed to Ryan High School or Denton High School, with some transferring to another school district to avoid the commute. The new Dr. Ray Braswell High School and Bill Carrico Athletic Complex opened in 2016, serving as an important building for not only Denton ISD, but also for the 380 corridor.

Braswell High School is located at the corner of US 380 and Villa Paloma Road. The prominent location serves as a gateway to the district for drivers coming from the east. It announces arrival to Denton ISD, and more importantly, serves as a hub for the growing 380 corridor. “Our students and their families been waiting for this for a long time and it’s exciting for them - and for all of us, really - to see it there, ready to open,” said Natalie Mead, Principal at nearby Paloma Creek Elementary.  “Braswell High School will truly provide an anchor for Denton ISD in this community and give everyone in the 380 area a symbol to rally around and support.”

The new Braswell High School was designed as a collection of academic houses, allowing students to be divided into smaller learning communities. Each learning community includes a collaborative learning commons where students can come together to work on projects. The commons areas house four huddle rooms for small group learning, and spaces around the huddle rooms allow for larger groups with markable wall surfaces and digital displays. The commons areas also have direct access to the educational courtyards which are designed as outdoor classrooms, each with its own unique design. Each house is connected by the “cross bar,” a corridor with classroom and lab spaces not part of the core curriculum. This area houses career education spaces, computer labs, and an advanced science lab. The cross bar also is home to an administration area for counselors and vice principals, allowing for close engagement with the students. Separate, secure entrances to the fine arts area, library, and athletics wings allow for high-volume, after-hours use. A courtyard between the fine arts wing and athletics wing is sloped to provide amphitheater style seating focused on an exterior covered platform that can be used for theatrical or choral events, or even host a pep rally.

Sustainability was also a central focus in the design of Braswell High School. More than 50 sustainability features were incorporated into the design of the facility. The school was oriented on the site to take advantage of natural light with large north facing windows and shading devices over southern facing windows. Every classroom in the building will have natural light. Energy efficiency will be achieved through a Geothermal HVAC system, a “cool” roof, high performance glazing, and additional insulation in both walls and roof. Collaborative learning spaces and sustainable design are a central focus in the school’s vision to create a community hub for the 380 corridor.

Unique 21st Century learning strategies were also implemented into the design ensuring the students graduate Braswell High School as critical thinkers, communicators, collaborators, and creators. These skills are learned outside of the classrooms in collaborative learning areas and maker spaces, which are located strategically within academic houses, fine arts wing, and library. A robust wireless network will allow students and teachers to have information at their fingertips anywhere on campus.

The school is designed to house 2,400 students with ample room on the site to expand the facility as the population on the 380 corridor increases. With new housing developments which are on the rise throughout this area, the population growth will demand additions in the near future. The capacity for the building to grow also allows Denton ISD to attract students from other nearby districts surrounding the area.

 A year and half of planning and design, plus two years of construction, delivered a state-of-the-art facility for the district and this community – a short time when considering how long the building will impact the community. “Braswell High School is an anchor to the community there,” said Leesa Vardeman, VLK Architects Principal. “However, this high school is poised to do more than just serve a community; it will create a history that binds the 380 Corridor communities’ philosophy toward education. It is a great win for everyone.”