Leander’s new Glenn High School is built for teamwork

It’s the high school of the future.

Gone are the long hallways dotted with classrooms with closed doors. The new $97.5 million Tom Glenn High School in Leander, the district’s sixth comprehensive high school, has a look and feel that more resembles a college campus.

At 436,000 square feet, the campus is smaller than the district’s other high schools, but appears larger, with high ceilings, large windows and natural light throughout the building.

The classrooms, with movable furniture and rolling chairs, have retractable doors that open up to carpeted common areas with comfy chairs and table tops for small group instruction or independent learning.

The student work spaces are designed for collaboration, so students can easily work in groups or two classrooms can work as one by moving back a wall. But the classes also can be completely closed down, with built-in blinds in the thick window doors, for testing or lockdowns.

About 650 freshmen and sophomores will start school on the new campus Monday, and administrators will add another grade level next year.

The library, renamed the media and academic center, will have the traditional books and computers, but it will also have a maker space with a 3-D printer accessible for all students, not just those in technology and engineering courses.

Instead of being tucked into the back of the building or out in portable buildings, the culinary arts, agriculture and fine arts classrooms are featured “front and center and throughout” the school, Glenn’s Principal Arturo Lomeli said.

“We hope it inspires students to pursue classes they wouldn’t have otherwise taken,” Lomeli said.

Just as students will move about from class to class, teachers, too will cart their belongings back and forth between the classrooms and so-called teacher houses, circular work spaces with large windows. Teachers will use those spaces, which double as break rooms, to work together on lesson plans and laptops. There are no individual offices.

“We don’t want silos,” said Jimmy Disler, senior executive director of operations. “We want them all working together collaboratively. … The flexibility of what you can create here is what is so intriguing to teachers.”

The campus layout is representative of an open workforce concept, which emphasizes that “while one idea is great, multiple ideas together is awesome,” said Jennifer Bussear, who will be teaching leadership and culture.

She and fellow teacher Jennifer Sabrsula, a professional communications instructor, spent a recent afternoon working together in a teacher house on upcoming lessons.

The school “lends its hands to more collaborating,” Sabrsula said. “There were lots of times when I was in my classroom from the time I got there until the time I left and never really got to collaborate with my cohorts. And for the students, I think this is just another step in preparing them for what it’s like in college. It gives them the same opportunity to collaborate.”

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