Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Brick by Brick

Today’s public schools are being designed with learning in mind. Just as advances in technology are changing how teachers teach, progress in the fields of design and architecture are impacting the look, feel, and functionality of new and renovated school facilities. When a school district green-lights the construction of a new campus facility or approves a renovation, today’s administrators are looking for sustainability, open-environment design, access to advanced technology, and other trending design principles. Dark hallways, flickering fluorescent lights, and heavy immovable furniture have given way to natural light and flexible seating. Across Texas, public school facilities are a reflection of the forward thinking happening inside. We hope you enjoy this tour of some of the most original and inspiring public school campuses in our state!

Jump-starting medical careers

Harlingen School of Health Professions

Harlingen CISD

Designed by Stantec Architecture & ROFA Architects


  • Photos courtesy of Harlingen CISD

Opened in 2014, Harlingen School of Health Professions prepares students for medical professions by providing a hands-on curriculum within six schools of study: dental science, patient care, surgical procedures, pharmacology/biomedical technology, medical science, and sports medicine therapeutic services. Strategically situated near Harlingen’s medical facilities, the school was built with real-world medicine in mind. The school features state-of-the-art simulation rooms that include a surgical lab and a patient care room.

Design Goals:

  • Supporting project-based learning: Students have access to equipment being used in the medical field today, and the opportunity to apply knowledge and procedures they’ve learned in class.
  • Providing a collegiate feel: The school district hopes to prepare students for postsecondary education in the medical field. The facility features an open library and a large lecture hall. There are also small breakout spaces throughout the school that help promote collaboration.

Special Features:

  • State-of-the-art simulation surgical lab and patient care room
  • Furniture that facilitates collaborative work
  • Multiple spaces for study and collaboration

Innovative, real-world environments

Academy High School

Plano ISD
Designed by Stantec Architecture


  • Photos courtesy of Stantec Architecture

Academy High School is a project-based high school that strives to provide a professional environment, inspire creativity, and empower students. Thanks in part to $5 million from founding corporate partner Texas Instruments, Plano ISD opened this innovative academy that combines project-based learning with rigorous STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) coursework in 2013. Students at this school benefit from the involvement of industry professionals and from cutting-edge technology in the classrooms.

Design Goals: 

  • Reflecting professionalism: The innovative space emphasizes STEAM coursework for future professionals.
  • Supporting collaboration: Large open spaces make this school truly collaborative.
  • Providing an open environment: The repurposed AT&T call center building has a modern, corporate look. Traditional classrooms are absent, and in their place are large project areas with moveable furniture.

Special Features:

  • Learning areas that are large enough for an entire grade to collaborate on a project
  • Space to build and construct projects to scale
  • Installation of special enclosed learning areas—including physics lab, makerspace, fabrication lab, and presentation spaces

Something for every student

Pebble Hills High School

Socorro ISD

Designed by Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, Inc.


  • Photos courtesy of Talley Photography

In 2015, Socorro ISD’s newest campus, Pebble Hills High School, rose from an expansion of the existing El Dorado ninth-grade academy. The additions include a couple of three-story academic wings, a fine arts auditorium with adjoining black box, an athletics facility, and a career and technology building. The school’s Sparta Business Academy offers students a four-year program in business and finance with an opportunity to earn an associate’s degree in collaboration with El Paso Community College. The new career and technology building houses programs in culinary arts, law enforcement, the judicial system, floral design, animal sciences, and various building trades.

Design Goals:

  • Minimizing the impact on learning already taking place: New additions were added as more money became available and student population increased.
  • Implementing 21st-century learning design: The final design provides space organization, learning areas, and technology for an innovative learning environment.
  • Promoting collaboration: Students are encouraged to gather in study spaces throughout the school to collaborate.

Special Features:

  • Culinary department includes a commercial kitchen and indoor/outdoor dining space
  • Greenhouse supports the floral department and horticulture
  • Mock trial classroom modeled after a courtroom
  • Installation of a fine arts gallery

21st-century learning spaces

Ralph Bunche Elementary

Midland ISD

Designed by WRA Architects and Pate & Associates Architects


• Photos courtesy Scott Hales, PBL Studios

The Midland-Odessa area led the nation in population growth from 2010-15, according to the US Census Bureau, and Midland ISD is working to meet the needs of its growing student population. In 2015 alone, three new elementary schools were opened in the school district. Unlike the other two, Ralph Bunche Elementary was a rebirth. The new 92,000-square-foot facility was built on the site of the original namesake school. The new two-story school features collaborative teaching areas, special-purpose and multifunction spaces, and shared community-use spaces.

Design Goals:

  • Minimizing the facility’s footprint: A compact two-story design on the small 9.5-acre site allowed for additional play fields and a new playground.
  • Flexibility: The school has large collaboration spaces, and furniture and equipment are easy to move.
  • Providing access to advanced technology: The campus has smart white boards, a strong wireless network, and handheld devices.
  • Creating a positive atmosphere: The relaxing color scheme is punctuated by loads of natural light.

Special Features:

  • Glass walls separate classrooms from community spaces
  • Grade levels have large collaboration spaces adjacent to standard classrooms
  • “Word wall” tribute to Ralph Bunche, complete with a translucent roof assembly that filters natural light down into first-floor classrooms

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