High school education provides the key foundation for students to succeed in the 21st century workplace, and as a result, schools are increasingly adapting their programming and focus to deliver on this educational strategy. Set on a small site, Apex High School’s existing facility lacked the space, layout, and technology to support both the growing student population and modern learning styles. Our K-12 Practice design experts were commissioned by the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) to assess and design a new high school concept.

Collaborative gathering spaces of varying size will be interspersed throughout the school, fostering student-led learning and group interaction for valuable, out-of-classroom learning experiences.

Following the initial facility assessment, the design team and school system worked with various stakeholders to identify core values and guiding principles to inform the design. A broad visioning session with students, administrators, faculty, and community stakeholders preceded a more focused programming session featuring small group discussions with individual stakeholder groups. Through these sessions, many goals emerged including the importance of keeping the center courtyard, which serves as defining cultural space with deep meaning for students, faculty, alumni, and the community.

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark NexsenThe design improves student learning by enhancing interaction and collaboration. Collaborative gathering spaces of varying size are interspersed throughout the school, fostering student-led learning and group interaction for valuable, out-of-classroom learning experiences. In addition, the design includes several maker spaces to support project-based and hands-on learning styles. Well-supported, highly effective, and dedicated principals, teachers, and staff are essential to the success of all students. Strategies to promote this goal include thoughtful consideration of adjacencies between departments and specialized programs with the intention to develop forward-thinking, collaborative learning environments. Student learning spaces are improved by enhancing staff interaction and collaboration. Learning spaces are adaptable to meet daily needs of students and teachers, with areas outside of the classroom available for student-led learning, as well as break out spaces for individual classes.

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen
Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark NexsenClark Nexsen’s design team designed a welcoming environment that will improve community pride while embracing school and community history. With the WCPSS Vision 2020 guidelines in mind, the new school creates a flexible, interactive learning environment that supports and strengthens the existing programs, while providing additional opportunities for collaboration. The new design enhances community engagement through a shared responsibility for student success by building trust, collaboration, and engagement among staff, families, and community partners.

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen
Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen

With strong programs in culinary science, agricultural technology, automotive technology, and carpentry, students have the opportunity to learn real world skills and participate in apprentice programs. Apex is also the home of the Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) which is a small, focused learning community within the high school.

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen

The curriculum focuses on applications, web development, and computer programming. This program offers rigorous courses, interdisciplinary approaches to STEM education, and workplace-based professional training opportunities. These unique programs along with a collaborative learning environment help prepare students for the 21st century workforce.

The opening of the new facility marks a return to the Laura Duncan campus following the 2017 demolition of the previous Apex High building which was built in 1976.

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark NexsenSchool history is featured in a 14-panel mural flanking two sides of the new cafeteria. Apex art students, with the leadership of local artist Jane Wolfgang and teacher Shawnda Rossi, committed an entire semester to developing the mixed media original artwork depicting artifacts, photographs, and handwritten letters illustrating the school’s 90+ year history.

Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen
Apex High School in Apex North Carolina; Architect: Clark Nexsen

This history includes the merging of white students from Apex High School and black students from Apex Consolidated High School in the early 1970s. Clark Nexsen worked closely with school representatives to reincorporate green, a historic symbol of this unified school district into the color scheme and symbolic elements of the new school building. The revised school logo with green stripe appears in the main lobby terrazzo inlay and oversized center court feature on the gymnasium floor.