Modernizing a 1980s High School

Courtland High School

Courtland High School

Spotsylvania County, Virginia

This dated high school has been transformed into a forward-thinking learning environment that prepares students for the future. A comprehensive stakeholder engagement process yielded a new vision for the county’s oldest high school: a place for students to take ownership of their learning.

We reorganized the main floor instructional areas to create a central axis from the relocated bus arrival entrance to the student commons. This “Innovation Avenue” is flanked by transparent STEM spaces and areas for the display of student projects emerging from the collaborative learning labs. A focal point of the design is a new monumental stair connecting the lower-level student commons to the former library, now a multimedia learning commons.

Modernizing a 1980s High School
Those we have worked with on this and other projects became invested in the projects. This was done by the time spent during all stages of the projects. I believe this is why the projects have been so successful and help create a better learning environment for everyone involved.
A photo of students sitting at high top tables near windows with abundant natural light.

A Design for Our Time

Like many schools dating to the 1980s, Courtland High School’s original design responded to the ‘70s energy crisis with a compact, internally focused floor plan and few windows. Our design has introduced abundant natural light, views to the outside, high-ceilinged common spaces, and wide corridors.

A photo of small groups of students seated together and collaborating.

Student-Centric Spaces

The new design provides breakout spaces for informal student gathering and collaboration. Hallway nooks and classroom connectors provide flexible furnishings and white boards that support solo study or small group work.

A photo of administrators at their new entry way desk.

A New Entry

We relocated the school’s administrative suite from the center of the building to the main entry. This change places administrators in a better position to manage security and the day-to-day flow of school activities. It also released the building’s core areas to serve students.

A photo of the newly improved, open and spacious, court-like learning commons.

From Library to Learning Commons

From the outset, the school’s library specialists were leaders in reimagining their space’s role in the renewed school. The once closed-off library is now the  center of an open, court-like learning commons. Meeting spaces and embedded technology encourage interaction and collaboration.

A photo of the flexible furnishings placed around a classroom.

Flexible Furnishings

Furniture is perhaps the most cost-effective force of change in any renovation project. We introduced flexible furnishings that can be easily reconfigured, empowering students and teachers to create the learning environment they need at any given time.

A photo of the brick and glass windowed exterior of Courtland High School.

The Greenest Building Is One That’s Already Here

The construction of new buildings taxes our planet’s resources and contributes to global warming. By reusing the existing building and keeping a simple materials palette, our renovation avoided approximately 6,000 metric tons of carbon, equivalent to taking 1,300 cars off the road for a year.

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