Jean McClung Middle School

When planning the construction of a new school, a school district’s primary focus is to ensure the building is structured to encourage students’ best performance. This was the desire of the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) in Texas when it was planning the construction of the Jean McClung Middle School. But it also wanted to create a school building that itself was be high-performing.

FWISD achieved its goal for the school’s structure through a focus on environmental sustainability, and as a result, the Jean McClung Middle School is the first high-performance school of its kind built in Texas. Program manager AECOM, general contractors Turner Construction and Con-Real, and WRA Architects Inc. worked together to deliver a project that met the district’s plans and standards.

“The FWISD Board of Education approved a Sustainability Design Policy in 2007, the first in the state of Texas for an independent school district,” AECOM Deputy Director Danilo Lopez said in a statement. “Designing and building high-performance schools is the initial step in the district’s roadmap toward leaving a legacy of green, healthy and safe environments for our students and communities. Ultimately, the goal is to continue to bring sustainable practices into the district’s operations and in every aspect of doing business.”

During preconstruction of Jean McClurg Middle School, the FWISD Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Department worked with AECOM, the contractors and architect as part of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools Committee (CHPS). CHPS has developed design criteria for sustainable schools in Texas that call for the creation of:

  • Learning environments that are naturally lit and thermally comfortable, because the committee believed these environments promote higher student achievement, attendance and teacher retention;
  • Buildings that are easy to maintain and employ design, construction and operational strategies that minimize waste, air and water pollution, and result in lower long-term operational costs; and
  • Initiatives that foster partnerships with federal, state and local organizations that are committed to green and healthier policies.

“Under AECOM's guidance, FWISD developed and adopted a long-term sustainability design policy, making FWISD the first school district in Texas to institute formal sustainability guidelines for architects, engineers and general contractors working on school projects,” AECOM says. “In support of its objective to become one of the United States’ best urban school districts, FWISD – the third-largest district in Texas – initiated a $593.6-million bond program in 2007. A major component of the program was the creation of high-performance schools.”

‘A Great Benefit’

With the sustainability criteria established, the project moved forward. The location of Jean McClurg Middle School is on 12 acres at the site of the former Handley High School, built in 1922. FWISD says WRA Architects examined photographs of the old school, studied the church across the street and spent a lot of time in Fort Worth’s Handley neighborhood to see the historic buildings and get inspiration for the design. 

“We know this school will be a great benefit to the community,” Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby said in a statement. “We’re very fortunate to have this particular piece of property, which was the location of the old Handley High School and a focal point of where the city of Handley once stood.”

The construction team broke ground in March 2010 and completed the school in spring 2011, in time for its August 2011 opening. At 162,000 square feet, the school holds 910 students, and has 26 classrooms, as well as computer and science labs. Additionally, there are instructional areas devoted to art, music, drama, life skills and career guidance. The physical education areas include two gymnasiums, a weight and fitness area, and an outdoor athletic field.

“The hard work of the Capital Improvement Program staff and the program manager, and the collaboration of campus staff, parents, contractors and architects have allowed us to complete this quality project on time, while saving significant dollars,” Dansby said at the school’s grand opening.

Jean McClurg Middle School’s construction cost was approximately $34.4 million, which was funded by a $593.6 million bond that passed in 2007. The middle school was part of a three-year, four-phase capital improvement program that involved 180 renovation projects, eight additions to existing schools and the construction of five new schools. The bond also supported the upgrades for improved accessibility, security, technology and building sustainability at the district’s schools.

Certified and Verified

Per the guidelines set by the district’s CIP and CHPS, Jean McClurg Middle School and FWISD’s four other new schools could only be built if they met the high-performance standards. Jean McClurg Middle School was built to LEED Silver standards, and a third-party consultant verified that its design and construction complied with the CHPS guidelines. Most of the features incorporated into the school were selected based on their low initial cost and high potential for operational energy savings, according to FWISD. These features include:

  • East-West building orientation with minimal or no windows on the east and west facades, and longer walls with windows on the north and south facades;
  • A geothermal HVAC system that uses the relatively constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool buildings with less energy than conventional systems;
  • The use of building materials with high recycled content to reduce waste; of regional origin to reduce transportation costs; and with zero volatile chemicals or pollutants to contribute to healthier environments; 
  • Building finishes in walls, floors and ceilings that maximize acoustic performance and facilitate the learning process; and
  • Landscaping with plants native to Texas, combined with a water-efficient irrigation system and low-flow restroom fixtures to conserve water and lower utility costs.

“The CIP is committed to providing a quality learning experience for students through the development of high-performance schools, and are well on our way to achieving this goal,” the district says. “With the support of the community, architects, construction workers and staff, we will continue to enhance the quality of FWISD schools, contributing to the academic success of the students.”

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