A Defining Moment

The Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Elementary School for Aledo ISD is the first elementary in the much-heralded and long-awaited Walsh development west of Fort Worth. It represents a pivotal moment in Aledo ISD’s history because it is the first school opening since the district moved into fast growth classification and it is a physical embodiment of the cornerstone that public schools serve in our communities. Quality neighborhoods start with quality schools.

Walsh Elementary has the unique distinction to be the first building to turn dirt in the 7,200 acre master planned Walsh development which is anticipated to support 15,000 homes or 50,000 residents. The wide open, rolling prairie has been home to the Walsh family’s cattle business and oil operations since the 1930’s and has been conceptualized as an ideally livable community since the 1990’s. The Walsh family has taken a long time and great care to design a neighborhood concept that speaks to their values and respects the natural beauty of this land.

At the core of these values is the desire to develop a community culture that holds education in the highest regard by anchoring each residential phase around a neighborhood school. The school will then be connected to a series of natural elements such as ponds or natural prairie grass fields, as well as community amenities such as co-working space for freelancers and Makerspace by a series of walking and bike trails. The entire neighborhood will be blanketed by a two-gigabit internet so learning can and will happen anywhere.

This devotion to education and excellence in the Walsh development forms a perfect partnership to the highly regarded Aledo Independent School District. AISD has applied its culture of universal student success through the integration of transformational learning design elements: Student collaboration areas immediately adjacent to grade level classroom pods permit enhanced communication for more in-depth exploration of ideas; grade-level teacher planning hubs support professional learning; hands-on STEM and science labs support real world experiences; robust technology throughout extends learning beyond the walls of the school.

The inclusion of natural light in schools has been shown to enhance the educational experience for both teachers and students. Aledo ISD has incorporated this research by introducing natural light into all learning spaces and utilizing energy efficient features. The windows will be enhanced by electrochromic glass that tints on demand to provide ultimate energy and glare control. The school environment is also augmented by an energy efficient geothermal HVAC system, LED lights, lighting/HVAC controls and low maintenance non-wax floors.  Best of all, the windows in Walsh Elementary will have optimum views of the surrounding landscape, inviting in the rolling prairie grasslands the Walsh family so cherished.

Each floor level of the campus connects to ground level to play grounds and outdoor learning opportunities through a split-level floor plan concept. The school then connects to the area parks and walking trails to reinforce the “Aledoness,” or small-town culture, identified as desirable by AISD’s long range planning committee.

It is difficult to assess which culture came first: Walsh with its love of the land, nature, and the lifestyle it affords, or Aledo ISD with its dedication to quality education and opportunity for every student. But this much is sure—together, they form an ideal marriage.