Page D1.1 . 24 August 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Smaller Cheaper Better School

by Jennifer LeClaire

Do students learn better in smaller environments? A growing number of educators and architects think so, and in Federal Way, Washington, a few of them have created a school that reflects this conviction. Harry S. Truman High School is flexible enough to accommodate the "smaller is better" approach to education and innovative enough to win top honors from the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI).

"There's a lot of research that shows most students learn better in small schools where there is a fabric of solid relationships involving the school, the family, and the student," says Truman High School principal Pam Morris-Stendal. "It becomes impossible for a student to slide through classes without being noticed. Schools need to be flexible and to get out of the boxes they've created for themselves if we are to improve the way we teach students."

Mahlum Architects developed the master plan and building for the high school. Truman is actually two semi-independent schools, each with 102 students, housed in a single-story, 23,000-square-foot (2100-square-meter) facility. The master plan for the 8.8-acre (3.6-hectare) campus also includes the King County Boys and Girls Club youth development center, a community Headstart daycare facility, and access to adjacent Steele Lake Park.

The high school is made up of two simple structures offset from each other and joined by a common entry, administrative offices, meeting room, student store, kitchen, and mechanical and electrical rooms. The two halves are mirror images, each with three sizes of rooms or areas in which to gather.   >>>

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Harry S. Truman High School in Federal Way, Washington by Mahlum Architects.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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Truman School's open learning environment.
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider


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