VLK Architects Receives Highest Honors in the TASA TASB Exhibit of School Architecture Awards

Fort Worth, Texas – Each year, the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) showcase new and renovated Texas schools by celebrating excellence in planning and design of the learning environment through the Exhibit of School Architecture. Projects are reviewed by a 12-member jury who may award “Stars of Distinction” in the categories of Community, Design, Planning, Sustainability, Value, and School Transformation. This year, VLK Architects was honored to receive Stars of Distinction on the following projects: Midlothian ISD’s Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary, Katy ISD’s Catherine Bethke Elementary, Denton ISD’s Dr. Ray Braswell High School, and Houston ISD’s Condit Elementary. Furthermore, Condit Elementary was one of five projects throughout the state that received at least four Stars of Distinction, and is selected as a finalist for the Caudill Class, the competition’s highest level of recognition. The Caudill Class is named for William Caudill, a Texas architect and pioneer in the design of schools, and the winners of this prestigious award will be announced at TASA’s Midwinter Conference in January of 2018.

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Condit Elementary, Houston ISD:

Stars of Distinction for Design, Community, Planning, and School Transformation

Condit Elementary is embedded into the neighborhood fabric of Bellaire, Texas - a school that has served the community for over 90 years. The design reflects the history of the community and elevates the educational spaces to support next-generation learning. The library is integrated as part of the school circulation and is called the learning commons. It is not dedicated to books alone but to collaboration and technology, as well. Every classroom connects directly to the learning commons, and by proxy, the books. Students and educators have immediate access to a space that encourages collaboration among peers in both small and large groups, making it a part of their daily experience. The traditional role of the librarian has transformed into a media specialist, serving as a second educator for every classroom. Education expands beyond the walls of the classrooms and teachers engage the new learning commons as an active multi-purpose experience for the students.

“It was really important for us to maintain some historic aspects of our building. Often times, that means that there are items that we want to make sure come with us,” said Condit Principal, Dan Greenberg. “Our original building was from 1928, and what we were able to bring were the keystone, recreate the archway, and have the original Al J. Condit Elementary School sign along with some of the brickwork that is actually inlaid right when you walk in. So the first thing you see when you walk into the new building is a tip-of-the-hat to the old building. We are really proud of that because there is a tradition we want to continue and that starts with acknowledging what a rich history we have.”

Condit Elementary will be a featured presentation at the TASA TASB Conference next month. The presentation will start at 1:00pm on October 7th at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas and will highlight Condit’s innovative and forward-thinking design, inspired by “Education: The Ribbon that Ties the Community Together.”

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Catherine Bethke Elementary, Katy ISD:

Stars of Distinction for Value, Planning, and School Transformation

 Catherine Bethke is a two-story prototype elementary located in Katy, Texas. This building plan was designed to allow for ease of student circulation, facilitate supervision and administration, while providing a safe and secure learning environment. The school has classroom wings (pods) that are organized around the media center to promote collaboration and situated to take advantage of views to the exterior. The design of these pods allow spaces within the building to be flexible to multiple learning environments. Two popular features are the learning stairs and student gallery which are a part of the centralized common space for student use and activities. Each classroom pod contains eight classrooms, collaboration spaces, and teacher planning space. The use of flexible furniture and activity walls/media stations, transform the classroom pod into an adaptable dynamic space. The school displays green spaces between the classroom wings offering opportunities for outdoor learning, natural daylighting, and age appropriate play areas for each grade level.

“I am in awe to see the student adaptability and creativity as they develop individual modes of learning and collaboration through the use of flexible spaces,” said Katy ISD Superintendent, Dr. Lance Hindt.

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Dr. Ray Braswell High School, Denton ISD:

Stars of Distinction for Design and Value

The fundamental design concept of Braswell High School is based on fostering the four Cs of education: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. The facility has four prominent entrances that are located to provide access to the parking areas surrounding the school. The school plan and architecture is organized into four houses that naturally create smaller learning communities, providing students with individualized instruction. This provides an interesting expression of architecture that is visible from the adjacent highway which passes the campus to the north. Braswell High is designed to house 2,600 students when complete, and a future ninth grade center is planned to increase the student population to 3,200.

“If each student has half of the honesty, integrity, and genuineness of Ray Braswell, the school will be a great place,” said Dr. Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD Superintendent. “Braswell High School sets the new standard for collaborative learning and critical thinking. Denton ISD students will be far-and-away much better prepared for post-secondary education and the workforce due to the hard work of our teachers and staff facilitated by this amazing campus.”

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Dolores W. McClatchey, Midlothian ISD:

Stars of Distinction for School Transformation

From July 2015 to August 2016, VLK and the MISD team worked together to design and build McClatchey Elementary School. McClatchey is the seventh K thru 5th facility to be constructed in the Midlothian Independent School District. The design builds on the successful concepts of its predecessors while embracing new ideas and approaches expressed by the district’s forward thinking design committee. The building has wide corridors in the classroom wings to allow for additional learning environments that encourage student interaction. These corridors are also furnished with soft natural light via roof level clerestories. The library is a central focal point within the school and acts as a true destination for both students and faculty with its collaborative learning environment, natural lighting and inviting colorful aesthetic.

“As the former principal of the Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary School, I was very excited about partnering with VLK and our forward-thinking MISD administrative team in creating a campus of collaboration, innovation, and flexible spacing; thus maximizing learning opportunities for the 21st-Century learner.” stated Courtney Carpenter, Director of Instructional Support, Midlothian ISD.

“VLK is honored to receive these Stars of Distinction Awards in the categories of Value, Planning, Community and School Transformation for Condit Elementary, Braswell High, Bethke Elementary, and McClatchy Elementary,” said Leesa Vardeman, VLK Partner. “Working with our clients, VLK helped create solutions that redefined traditional educational design to respond to the needs of today’s diverse curriculum and student learning styles.”

Projects will be on display at the Exhibit of School Architecture at the upcoming TASA/TASB Convention held in Dallas, October 6th-8th.

“The opportunity of every educational design project is the ability to enhance student engagement through the learning environments we design with our client stakeholders,” said Ken Hutchens, VLK Principal of Creative. “Our clients’ projects being awarded these “Stars of Distinction” validate VLK’s processes and engagement with our clients, and is extremely rewarding to everyone at VLK.”