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image Project: White River High School

White River High School

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Architect Narrative

The new high school is designed to support an innovative Career Path program with five specialized areas of study for students in Grades 11-12 ¡V Arts and Communications, Health and Human Services, Business and Marketing, Science and Natural Resources, and Engineering and Technology ¡V and as a complement, three sections of preparatory Core Area Studies for students in Grades 9-10. To support the educational program, the facility is organized as a series of semi-autonomous schools within a school, each of which corresponds to a specific area of the Career Path program, with its own sense of identity and specialized needs. Related program goals include:

„X Student-Staff Interaction, with a student commons and associated services located at the heart of the school, easily accessed for everyday use;

„X Variety of Learning Settings, with flexible multi-use study, presentation and technology centers at the heart of each Career Path cluster;

„X Quality of Learning Environment, with ample natural light and views in all learning settings, and materials and finishes non-institutional in character;

„X Sustainable Design Strategies, with outdoor learning areas featuring the site as a pedagogical tool for learning about the environment.


The design grows out of a series of intensive programming and planning workshops involving a broad cross-section of the school community. Critical to this process is an understanding of the history and identity of the community and site, and the school¡¦s relationship to both. Design themes that support the unique nature of the community include:

„X School Identity, with an emphasis on the natural character of the site and its surroundings, including a dramatic view of Mt. Rainier ¡V a source of local pride and identity;

„X Community Use, with support of a broad array of community activities related to the commons, library, performing arts center, and athletic facilities, all of which are accessible for after-hours use.


The new facility is designed to flexibly adapt to four models for educational delivery: Career Path and Departmental models, which have eight program sections in eight classroom clusters; a Grade Level model with four grades in eight clusters; and an Integrated model with a multi-disciplinary classroom organization dispersed in all eight clusters. All four models work with the basic cluster organization to create a sense of intimacy and identity within the larger school. The key to the plan¡¦s flexibility is the zoning of specialized lab and studio classrooms along public zones between clusters, allowing these rooms to associate flexibility with more than one cluster.

Educator Narrative

To support the educational program the facility is focused upon small learning communities, organized as a series of semi-autonomous schools within a school, each of which corresponds to a specific area of the career path program with its own sense of identity and specialized needs. Our program goals included: student-staff interaction, variety of learning settings, and sustainable design strategies.

We developed eight small learning communities — 3 core studies areas and 5 career pathway areas. The three core studies areas each house approximately 220 ninth and tenth grades students as well as 8 — 10 certified teachers. The five pathway areas are designed to house the same numbers. The pathway component of the educational program will vary in enrollment since the popularity of the pathway is partially dependent upon hiring needs. For example, at the current time the Health and Human Services pathway is our most popular pathway. Approximately 40% of student population claims this is where their interests are. Since every pathway is physically the same size, providing service to all the students that desire to be participants in the Health and Human Services pathway is challenging.

Our commons/lunch area is at the heart of the school with many of the student resources around the perimeter i.e. library, food service, guidance services, administrative services. While we continue to feel this is an excellent idea, we have learned some practical lessons. We did not anticipate the acoustical challenge of this area. While it was extremely important to design a commons space for community interaction and large student activities it is harder to conduct smaller group meetings.

The administrative office is divided into two camps — student services and adult services. Student services like attendance, discipline, athletics, and nursing are provided on one side of the office. Adult services like substitutes, teacher conferences, parent conferences, staff lounge, etc. are provided on the other side of the administrative office. While we still believe this is a valid concept, careful planning needs to be considered when dividing square footage and developing holding areas. Attendance and discipline require larger holding areas for students. Additionally, ample space for the assistant principal offices should have been provided.

Recognized Value Award 2004


High School

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