Career and technical education (CTE) is nurturing young minds for success after high school. As the workplace shifts towards employing based on specific skillsets it is imperative that students learn vocational skills prior to entering the global workforce. Vocational education succeeds at introducing workplace skills with various hands-on courses focusing on high-demand careers such as business and hospitality, to name a few. As more schools around the US embrace career and technical education programs, so are they seeking design and architecture solutions to adapt campuses to the space demands of CTE. In Texas, Lubbock Cooper High School’s CTE program offers an extensive selection of vocation oriented courses for the over 1,000 students enrolled in the program—the need for a flexible space capable of meeting the demands of dynamic hands-on classes was deemed essential.
A Dedicated Space for Career and Technical Education
School administrators saw potential in what was formerly the agriculture wing to renovate and build a brand new center dedicated to Career and Technical Education. Having previously worked on other district projects, Parkhill, Smith and Cooper architecture firm designed a 21st Century learning space with flexibility and innovative design solutions. Differentiating itself from the rest of the campus, the resulting 40,000 square feet addition simulates work environments with spacious laboratories and hallways rather than the traditionally aligned desks and tables of lecture rooms. A particular classroom space has been catered, pun intended, to their expansive Culinary Arts courses to offer students a real-life experience into the world of culinary and restaurant business management.
“The whole point is to develop skills that prepare students for jobs and explore what they may want to study,” says CTE Program Director Debbie Smith. “Even if they don’t attend college, the courses teach valuable skills needed for today’s workforce.”
Designing with Space Flexibility in Mind
The Culinary Arts center achieves 21st Century classroom design by leveraging mobile fixtures and space management solutions. Almost every piece of furniture and equipment is on wheels to allow multiple configuration and seamless transitions from lectures to hands-on activities. This flexibility and ease of space management extends to the NanaWall opening glass wall encompassing a 30 ½ feet opening that welcomes students into the classroom. As an easy operable solution, the opening glass walls adapts the layout needs of the curriculum where the teaching space can be extended into the hallway and maximizing the space available.
“The glass walls are easy to operate—if I can operate the opening glass wall, anyone can,” says CTE Director, Debbie Smith. “The kids know how to open, close, and clean the NanaWall systems so they too have the ability to change the space based on their needs.”
Real Life Experience for Real Life Success
Although the space is strictly employed for career and technical education instruction, there are a few special catering events hosted throughout the year where the operable glass system is opened to extend the classroom space into the hallway outside. This layout configuration gives way to a unique real-life restaurant experience almost never achieved in traditional teaching spaces. “When hosting catering events, the tables are rolled out and lined at the opening,” says Smith. “Students serve guests in a layout similar to a real life restaurant while learning business management skills.” The flexibility of the opening gives way to an array of configurations based on the needs of the students and the events being hosted. The walls can be completely or partially opened giving way to customizable opening sizes.
Transparent and Easily-Operable Solution
The 10 panel NanaWall SL70 folding glass wall offers transparency and ease of operation, enhancing the flexibility and efficiency of the classroom space. The 8 ½ foot system is engineered to smoothly glide on stainless steel rollers and configured to stack on each side of the opening. An active opening to the left featuring a commercial 10” kickplate facilitates classroom ingress and egress when the NanaWall SL70 is closed. The thermally broken flush sill with insert ensures ADA compliance in a high-traffic educational area.
According to Smith, the transparency of the walls is not only essential for enhancing the sense of space but also to fully visualize and present the effectiveness of their CTE courses. “In the culinary center specifically, we want people to see what our CTE program has to offer,” says Smith. “We often have community members visiting the career center as well as parents who are thinking of enrolling their kids in our school.”
The overall goal of Lubbock Cooper School District to provide steppingstones into vocational success after high school is reflected within the design and architecture of its new Career and Technical Education wing. No space is wasted as hallways can immediately be integrated as classroom space by leveraging the flexible design solutions of NanaWall opening glass walls. The innovative design of the well-equipped Culinary Arts center, as well as the rest of the career laboratories within the building, represents their mission to assimilate students to successful careers and valuable skillsets as they prepare to become the leaders of the future.
Learn more about how NanaWall systems are leveraged in 21st Century classroom design in our Education Applications page!