Case Study - The Library as the Heart of a Campus
Royse City ISD has experienced expansive growth – forecasts show that by the 2022-2023 school year, enrollment increased nearly 50% from 2017-2018. It became very clear for district leadership that a replacement Ruth Cherry Elementary School campus was needed to address rapid growth. The original Cherry Elementary campus was re-built in 1974 by the community after a fire destroyed the school. The community-built campus was very traditional and starkly utilitarian, as were many public schools built in that time. Throughout its lifespan, the facility was used as a high school, middle school, intermediate school, and elementary school. To reflect the growth of the community, not just in size but in sophistication, and to fully realize the district’s vision for elementary education, VLK needed to craft an innovative solution suitable for elementary age students.
The inspiration for the school’s design came from collaboration with the district on the library, which they hoped would resemble a treehouse. The idea became a spark of inspiration not just for the library, but for the entire school. They envisioned elements that would conjure thoughts of a tree, symbolizing growth, vitality, and the importance of nature. The campus is centered around the treehouse-inspired, two-story library complete with a slide from the upper to lower level, leading to an outdoor collaboration space. The library was designed at the heart of the building, representing community space for all students to explore and learn through reading, as it spans both floors, accessible to all grades. Floor to ceiling windows span the back wall with intricate framing that resembles branches, while cubby holes are scattered throughout the space bringing the feeling of nature indoors and offering a cozy spot for young readers to nestle into.
Exploring the school beyond the library allows discovery of additional destinations that are reflective of the treehouse theme. These destinations, mostly collaboration or teamwork spaces, aesthetically tie back to the library while providing comfortable and exciting environments for learning. A simple and consistent nature inspired palette spans each floor along with purposefully built elements contributing to the concept, with accents of the green earth on level one transitioning to the blue sky on level two. The second-floor ceiling uses green circular acoustic tiles to evoke a canopy of leaves emphasized in two-story spaces so the effect is felt on both floors.
The primary mission to build a new elementary school to accommodate Royse City’s fast growth was accomplished in time to welcome students for 2022-2023. Ruth Cherry Elementary does so much more, through a design intended to both inspire its students and serve as a highly functional and innovative learning facility that’s as much a joy for teachers and staff as for its students.