Baton Rouge's first 21st century high school for the future is a "school like no other".
The design team of GraceHebert Architects and associate architects DLR Group were tasked with creating a technology rich, flexible and adaptable school that supports project based learning. Therefore the design for Lee High School does not follow a traditional school layout. The school consists of flexible spaces that can be configured for a variety of uses. Visual connections in learning labs and specialized spaces give students a reason to become excited about learning.
October 5, 2016
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With its recent renovations of Lee Magnet High School, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System is setting the standard for 21st century education.
“GraceHebert Architects, DLR Group and the East Baton Rouge School Board designed the new Lee High with students in mind. The facility includes collaborative learning environments with state-of-the-art technology, a project-based curriculum and big plans for the future.
We talked with East Baton Rouge School Board President Barbara Freiberg and Lee High Principal Nanette McCann, and toured the facility with David Hebert, architect and partner at GraceHebert, and Sharon Sims, associate principal of Lee High, to learn more about the upgraded school.
Lee High Is Made for Collaboration and College Prep
Many of the changes at Lee High, including a new curriculum, teaching styles and staff, are part of an emphasis on collaborative learning and dual enrollment with LSU, officials say.
Sims says the curriculum focuses on three main academies: biomedical, digital and media arts, and STEM, which includes engineering and robotics. Teachers are referred to as “learning coaches” since they facilitate collaboration, and students work on projects in collaborative learning spaces.
“These spaces are meant to wow the students and the community,” Sims says of the areas that feature technology-equipped areas where students can work on projects throughout the year. The school has several partnerships in the community, including with LSU for “externs” who will teach students in specialty courses.
The school also offers access to college credits through Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment courses with LSU that are taught by the Lee High faculty and LSU professors, Freiberg says. Sims says these courses mean many students can enter college with enough credits to qualify as sophomores. “They are not only prepared for college, they’re ahead,” she says.
Dual enrollment and the 3,000 square feet of unconventional adaptable spaces complement each other in a number of ways, McCann says. “Students in ninth grade may take the Introduction to Engineering course for LSU dual-enrollment credit and continue with other engineering courses using their knowledge in the Engineering and Robotics Space,” McCann says. “Similarly, students may take a computer science dual-enrollment course and use their knowledge in the Digital Media Space. Or students may take an anatomy course that will lead … to the Biomedical Space.”
Lee High Is About Flexible Learning Environments Just about every space in Lee High can be adjusted on the fly to maximize opportunities to learn, officials say.
There are no lockers or traditional hallways, and there are no set classrooms, Freiberg says. “The walls can move and shift so that all rooms can be a classroom,” she says.
Hebert notes that “most of the furniture is also on wheels, so students and teachers can change the learning environments at any time.” There are tables, chairs and desks in various arrangements in the academies and the cafeteria, as well as areas to sit outside. There are conference rooms to simulate real-world work environments, and areas with lounge chairs to create a variety of environments for learning. “There are spaces for every student, whether students want to work alone or in groups,” Hebert says.
But even with the additions, the school still emphasizes nature and green spaces. Many walls are made of glass to bring in natural light and show off the scenic oak trees.
Lee High Is Still Planning for the Future Lee High has even more plans for the future of its students, the community and all EBR schools, officials say.
Hebert says the school is designed to adjust over time. “If the main academies need to change in the next few years then the spaces can support these changes,” he says.
But the updated facility and curriculum aren’t just for students, because Sims says the school also is intended to be a boon to the community.
Also, Freiberg says, the school system plans to implement successful programs from Lee High, like hiring graduate students to teach courses and the LSU dual-enrollment classes, at other schools.
Lee High is the beginning of new possibilities that can reach far beyond the school’s walls, Hebert says. “Lee High shows how 21st century design and technology can transform and enhance education for EBR schools and other school systems all over the state,” he says.
McCann says the faculty can hardly wait for the new school year to start to take advantage of the upgrades at Lee High. “With the direction from our partners at LSU, our team of teachers have created some of the most innovative curriculum, and we are ready to start teaching in August,” she says. “Every decision we have made from the chairs to the desks to the hiring of the best teachers from all over the state will make the difference at Lee.”