When DeSoto Independent School District in Texas decided to change its approach to secondary education, it rethought not only the curriculum structure, but also the learning environment.
The program’s success hinged, in part, on the classroom designs that would be part of the high school building expansion – five learning academies called the College and Career Academies built within its existing high school. DeSoto selected Smith System to outfit approximately 60 new classrooms because the company shared the district’s mentality of education-driven design. Smith System listened to the school’s concept and customized a solution, fulfilling DeSoto’s vision of a more flexible, collaborative and effective learning environment that prepares students for college, careers and beyond.
Envisioning a New Learning Experience
As the vision committee of students, teachers, parents and community members discussed the new classroom designs, the impact and importance of furniture on the classroom experience came into the spotlight. The committee laid out what it wanted in furnishings: design to enable collaborative learning, durable to withstand heavy use from teenagers, flexible to allow learning anytime and anywhere, and professional-looking to set a mature tone.
The district turned to its longtime furniture and educational product dealer School Specialty for the project. More important than cost was finding a solution that complemented how the district wanted to teach.
The vision committee had a chance to review and test school furniture options from a variety of companies – moving tables, sitting in chairs, even standing on desktops. The quality, flexibility and durability of Smith System school furniture shone, especially when paired with the company’s willingness to collaborate and customize its products.
Smith System’s UXL Tables were selected for the College and Career Academies’ computer labs, while Flex Computer Stations allowed students to work individually or in pairs in classrooms. Customized Cascade Lectern Carts were the right combination of teaching tool and podium for increased lesson flexibility. Arc Desks matched the individual and collaborative learning goals in the district’s vision; the design of Intuit Chairs encouraged student attention and provided ergonomic support, and the built-in handholds allowed for portability throughout the classroom. All selected tables and desks featured grey- or cherry-colored laminate tops with platinum-colored frames, which were coupled with black chairs for a modern vibe reflective of a university setting.
A More Functional, Effective Learning Environment
The expanded building for the College and Career Academies opened in August 2012, and the effects of the redesign – and Smith System solutions – made an immediate impression.
“When parents walked into the classrooms, they said, ‘This is not what classrooms looked like when I was to high school,’ and, ‘This looks like a college campus,’” recalled Sharon Price, the district’s chief operations officer at the time.
It’s also been a hit with students and a boon to student achievement. One teacher noted that the classroom and its furniture are assets to the teacher’s toolbox and students’ ability to learn. She’s been able to diversify how she delivers lessons and adjust her classroom spontaneously to help her students better contribute and comprehend.
Since the updates, more than 100 new students from private schools and other districts have applied to study at DeSoto High School’s College and Career Academies. Smith System’s furniture solutions have enhanced teachers’ lesson plans, and instilled a sense of school pride in students. With a fresh look and fresh perspective, the new learning environment is helping students be prepared for what meets them after graduation day.