Special Report
College & Workforce Readiness

Arkansas High School Expands on a Human Scale

By Jamaal Abdul-Alim — June 02, 2016 2 min read
Many of the classrooms at Fayetteville High School feature movable walls and double doors so that groups of teachers or students can collaborate and gather in common spaces.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The newly renovated Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville, Ark., was designed to accommodate 3,000 students. But educators didn’t want the building to feel so massive on the inside that students became just another face in the crowd.

“The idea was that because it was gonna be 3,000 students, they didn’t want the school to feel too impersonal,” said Jim French, the global K-12 sector leader at the DLR Group, the architectural firm tasked with renovating the school near the University of Arkansas.

The old facility was stripped down to its steel beams. It was then clothed anew in metal panels, glass walls, and local stone.

“We tried to stay away from the building looking like an institute,” French said. “This is more of an iconic building that looks more like corporate headquarters.”

“The students wanted to feel like they were going to a real workplace,” he continued. “I think that’s an important piece of the story.”

Inside the rebuilt 353,381-square-foot facility, which cost $96 million to renovate, students learn in pods made up of four classrooms apiece. A team of teachers oversees each pod so that they can easily keep track of students, and build more meaningful relationships with them.

“What we don’t want to happen is—just because we are a large school—that kids would get lost in the shuffle,” said Principal Chad Scott.

‘Open Project Labs’

The classrooms feature movable walls with double doors that open up into common spaces, known as open project labs, where teachers from different classrooms and other groups can collaborate and gather.

“It provides space for multiple groups to gather,” explained science teacher Linda Stocker. “With these spaces, teachers are afforded more flexibility in the strategies and methods used in their curriculum.”

“For example,” she added, “physics teachers use the space for lab experiments, which require more space than is available in their classroom lab.”

She also pointed out an open space between the second- and third-floor open project labs that allows for physics experiments involving gravity, forces, and the like.

“Teachers use this space for Socratic circle discussions, large group activities, autonomous workstations, gallery walks, guest speakers, and one of the open project labs is set up for aquaponics,” Stocker said.

French, the architect, noted that while the classrooms facilitate teacher collaboration, they are still traditional enough for teachers who want to teach independently to do so.

“It’s really hard sometimes to get the district to make changes within their school designs, because they’re afraid of failure,” French said. “They don’t want to live with something that doesn’t work. What we’ve tried to do with this school is we tried to build half the classrooms very similar or on a traditional arrangement, so if a teacher didn’t want to be highly collaborative with other teachers, they don’t have to.”

Coverage of trends in K-12 innovation and efforts to put these new ideas and approaches into practice in schools, districts, and classrooms is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.


Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Whitepaper
Root Causes of Students Stopping Out of College
Many postsecondary access and success programs successfully support students to enroll in a degree or credential program after high schoo...
Content provided by OneGoal
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion The High School Network Providing Students With On-the-Job Training
Rick Hess speaks with Cristo Rey Network President Elizabeth Goettl about the network's innovative work-study program.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness From Our Research Center Class of COVID: 2021's Graduates Are Struggling More and Feeling the Stress
COVID-19 disrupted the class of 2020’s senior year. A year later, the transition to college has in some ways gotten worse.
7 min read
Conceptual illustration of young adults in limbo
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness From Our Research Center Helping Students Plan How to Pay for College Is More Important Than Ever: Schools Can Help
Fewer and fewer high school graduates have applied for federal financial aid for college since the pandemic hit.
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of young person sitting on top of a financial trend line.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision<br/>