Student-Centered Education is Focus for New Elementary School in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent Schoo
Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District welcomed students this semester to the new Sue Gratehouse Pope Elementary School. The district partnered with VLK Architects, an architectural firm specializing in the design of educational facilities, to create the first school for the master-planned Bridgeland community.
The school’s design was developed under the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) guidelines, a “leading national movement to improve student performance and the entire educational experience by building the best possible schools.” VLK Architects’ design also mirrored Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s desired open concept plan that incorporated a student-centric learning environment, an approach to education that focuses on the needs of the students, of which VLK has extensive experience. Elements of 21st Century Learning can be experienced throughout Pope Elementary School. Students and teachers alike enjoy flexible learning environments, including transparency between indoor and outdoor environments via movable,
glass walls that open the collaborative spaces to classrooms. Complete with projectors and sinks, these areas are multi- functional, conducive to all types of learning, from working within the confines of a wet lab to reading to a small group of students.
VLK oriented the building for lakeside views and opened the interior of the school with enhanced glass and natural daylight through eye-level windows and clerestories. Additional features supporting both a collaborative and sustainable environment include science/mechanical rooms with windows, providing learning opportunities for students; a building monitoring system, teaching students about exterior/interior conditions and electricity output and an on-site cistern, which collects rainwater for the community garden. The heart of the school, a two-story library, transports learning outside of the traditional space; its layout provides reading lofts for students inside the school as well as takes the collaborative space outside, with views of the lake.
“In addition to its inviting appeal, the state-of-the-art design of Pope Elementary School accommodates the modern learning environment that Cypress-Fairbanks ISD offers. The school’s classrooms, library, reading nooks, multipurpose observation deck and many flexible learning spaces were all designed with an intentional focus on hands-on education that will allow our 21st century learners to thrive,” states Dr. Mark Henry, Superintendent of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.
Bridgeland’s contributions to the project truly enhanced the community feel and support of the new school. “The neighborhood’s commitment to providing site features, such as the sidewalks, shrubbery and trees, as well as taking care of the irrigation needed, showcase its tie to the campus. This is truly a community school,” says VLK Principal and designer Kenneth Hutchens.
VLK’s Principal-in-Charge of the project, Steve Aloway, AIA, LEED® AP, appreciates the opportunity to partner with Cypress-Fairbanks ISD once again for this project. “Cypress- Fairbanks ISD has been instrumental in incorporating the idea of collaboration into learning systems. Their vision allowed us to provide them a dynamic school that will provide both students and staff excitement for years to come.”
In October, over 100 people turned out for the dedication of Pope Elementary, including numerous former employees of Mrs. Pope, who are now school administrators, wishing to thank her for her mentorship and to celebrate the festivities of the day. The school’s choir provided inspiring entertainment while a video of Mrs. Pope’s contributions to the district highlighted her life and career in education and how she shape the lives of so many. Mrs. Pope spoke fondly and with pride about her years of educational service and remarked at the beauty of the building that bears her name. VLK Architects proudly presented Mrs. Pope with a framed photograph of the building.
About VLK Architects
With offices in Fort Worth and Houston, Texas, VLK Architects provides architecture, planning and interior design services to K-12, Higher Education, Corporate and Institutional clients throughout Texas. For more information please contact Ms. Kristen Allbritton, Marketing Coordinator at 817-633-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.