The Essex Technical High School was designed as a combination of two schools, a County Agricultural School, and a Regional Vocational Technical High School. The mission of this new 1,440-student high school was to prepare students from seventeen area communities for the demands of college and 21st-century careers. The 13-building campus is the only one in the state to offer agricultural and vocational education within one facility. During the initial visioning process, the community identified the important goals of creating small learning communities, developing collaborative learning environments, and providing an environment where learning occurs everywhere.
These goals were achieved by dividing the student population into four academies made up of Academics, Trades, and Tech. The vertically organized academies are grouped in clusters around flexible learning spaces, an extension of the corridor which allows students to gather in small groups for project-based or group study. Interdisciplinary classrooms and science labs are dispersed supporting the district’s vision of collaboration. Each academy has its own entrance and administration suite, which stack vertically with the vocational/agricultural shops at the lower level, classroom/shops at the main level, and remaining academic classrooms and science laboratories at the upper level. This allows the education to occur within the academy, with the students only traveling outside their academies for electives, physical education, and lunch.
The cafeteria space is broken into smaller, more intimate spaces, with the main cafeteria/lobby designed to serve half the student population and two additional dining areas serving the balance of students. The distributed dining areas are located between two academies and serve as shared lobby space providing scaled social environments and multi-purpose opportunities.