New Arizona High School to Feature Flexible Spaces

AVONDALE, Ariz. — A groundbreaking ceremony for the newest high school in Agua Fria Union High School District #216 in Avondale, was held on Jan. 12.

Phoenix-based DLR Group designed the 1,600-student school, which has yet to be named, to create a next-generation educational experience organized around four learning suites. The learning suites will be connected via a passively conditioned exterior arroyo-like space, which will provide additional informal learning areas and cafe spaces.

Each suite in the 237,000-square-foot high school will be a fluid space designed to function as a small learning community with specialty labs on the lower floor and flexible, connected spaces on the upper floor that can be separated by divider walls and curtains. Overhangs will reduce solar gain in the suites and in the exterior spaces. Clerestory windows and sky lighting will bring natural light into the learning spaces.

“Connectivity was a primary goal of the design,” said DLR Group Principal Pamela Loeffelman, FAIA, in a statement. “We incorporated sliding and folding walls to maximize the variety of spatial interrelationships within the learning suite. The flexible design and furniture allow teachers to adapt their space to their teaching style rather than their teaching style to the space.”

Perhaps the high school’s most innovative feature will be the Teaching and Learning Accelerator (Accelerator), which will serve as an open-source incubator for district-wide professional development, student competition and performances, according to a statement. This space will make it easy for students and the community to come together to listen to speakers and engage in the space.

“The Accelerator will change the way Agua Fria delivers education,” said Loeffelman in a statement. “It is designed to be utilized 60 percent of the school day by the local campus and 40 percent by the district’s other high schools. It gives educators and students a place to experiment and test concepts, and a place the community can come together for life-long learning activities.”

The Accelerator will incorporate two spaces that work together. The theater will feature fixed seating in the lower bowl and a flat-floor retractable seating system in the back. The second white-box space will provide another collaboration space for up to 260 people. Overhead garage doors will connect the two spaces.

A November 2015 bond referendum will fund the $76 million high school, which is scheduled for completion in 2018.