Doing More with Less: Highlighting a Career Tech Program on a Limited Budget

The Challenge:

After five expansions between 1973 and 2019, Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas, had become a tangle of dark, narrow hallways. The Career Technology Education labs that differentiated Smith’s program — courses on entrepreneurship, construction, fashion design, architecture and other fields — were tucked away into obscure corners and spread across two floors. Students had no day-to-day exposure to the unique curricular offerings, and many had no idea they existed at all.

The Solution:

Given a portion of bond funds to improve the campus, stakeholders gravitated to the idea of consolidating the career tech program where it would be more visible and could contribute meaningfully to the campus. Designers identified the disconnect between the public entry at the front and student entry in the rear of the school as an opportunity to improve circulation. The student entry and its adjacency to a large, untapped outdoor space offered the possibility of adding a student quad in the future. Taking a long view of the renovation, designers envisioned a new student hub that could grow over time.

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The design efficiently transformed the entry with a glass façade and bold exterior signage welcoming students to “Innovation Alley.” Natural light floods a wide circulation space that runs through the ground floor, linking specialized studios for engineering, business, construction management and media arts. Glass walls enclosing each classroom bring transparency and openness to the career tech program and give students daily exposure to distinctive educational opportunities. Collaboration spaces pepper the hallways, with soft seating for students to sit, connect and take in the academic milieu.

“The renovation reflects the strong community culture that already existed on campus,” says LPA Director of K-12 Kate Mraw. “This was about giving them more with this budget and maximizing it to deliver the most impact.”

Doing More With Less is a series of case studies illustrating cost-effective, sustainable design solutions that save materials, energy and water.