Notice I didn't say "hallway," though you can walk through it to get from one place to another. This, interestingly, is a prime example of how great design can save money and one reason DSST cost less per square foot than a standard Denver public school. Hallways make up 20 percent of a traditional school's footprint. You don't need them. When I tell school leaders this, they look at me like I'm nuts. But when I explain how wasted-space walkways can be turned into learning spaces, thereby reducing the need for classroom space, it starts to make sense.
At High Tech High Chula Vista, near San Diego, most walls consist of large expanses of glass, with partitions that can be moved as needed when teachers want to join forces. The glass makes it possible to see what other classes are doing, which makes collaboration easier. No matter where you are in the building, you are not alone.
Teachers told us that this design has inspired them to work better as a team and develop new ways of teaching. "You're not just stuck in your own little box," one noted. The environment does not simply encourage community and transparency but actually requires it. I asked the teachers at High Tech High what would happen if their highly successful educational program was placed in a traditionally designed school facility.
"It would fail," I was told.
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