A new career technical education high school radically restructuring curriculum and architecture

Pasco County Schools, Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation (KRAI), Wesley Chapel, FL

Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation is “not going to look like anything you’ve ever seen before,” said Dr. Kim Moore, Assistant Superintendent at Pasco County Schools. “This is going to be a cool school.”

Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation (KRAI) is indeed going to be very cool. Its cantilevered entry, open-air circulation and contemporary identity make it a shining example of progressive architecture. But what really distinguishes it from other high schools is the immense impact it will have on students and their future career prospects. The 180,000-square-foot building will be focused on Career and Technical Education (CTE), which is a pedagogical approach that prepares students for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers. It will offer hands-on, interactive learning that teaches skills more than theory—arming students with the competencies needed to successfully transition from high school to careers, or into college and beyond.

KRAI builds on an innovative new model: it’s a standalone, purpose-built CTE and comprehensive high school. More than 1,000 students will be enrolled in the school, studying disciplines ranging from digital technology and engineering to biomedical science, cyber security, building construction, robotics and more. Much like the high-tech interdisciplinary buildings found on university campuses, the school is structured to fuel innovation, entrepreneurship and career preparedness.

The school’s modern architecture and dramatic entry canopy—hovering atop two simple columns—is a technical achievement and a nod to the building sciences field, one of the areas of study in the school. All circulation will unfold in an open-air interior courtyard; bridges, stairways, seating and informal gathering areas—including a stage—are threaded throughout the building to prompt incidental meetings, gatherings and connections.

Relationships will be key throughout the building, not just with the students and teachers, but with outside industry partners. Every space is engineered to foster community and collaboration, and one of the most prominent spaces is the two-story collaboration hub. The hub will be filled with flexible furniture to support large gatherings and smaller-scale collaboration between students and outside partners. Like every space in the building, it will be bright, open, social and reconfigurable.

The CTE classrooms are where the magic will happen. Each space is designed to function as a makerspace, filled with professional-grade equipment, technology and tools. These are malleable spaces, too, capable of evolving and changing as career demands evolve.
The school is set to open in time for the 2022-2023 school year.