The Innovative High Schools represents an idea many years in the making in Henderson County, North Carolina. Henderson County, Henderson County Public Schools, and Blue Ridge Community College have shared in a vision to place the Henderson County Early College and Career Academy into one building on the BRCC Campus, further increasing their partnerships, and giving students greater opportunities in life.

In the last few years, the Early College has been identified by NC New Schools as a ‘School of Innovation and Excellence’, and from 2015-2017 had a 100% graduation rate, while at the same time 51% of the graduates are the first in their families to attend college. It offers high school students a chance to graduate from high school with up to two years of college credit, for free.

The Career Academy has increased the size of their graduation class dramatically, with a graduation glass of 80 graduates last year, including 30 who earned college credits. In fact, this year 40% of Balfour’s juniors and seniors are currently enrolled in college level classes. It is the only Henderson County School to offer training in mechatronics, firefighting, and the ProStart Culinary Program.

The architectural solution by Clark Nexsen’s K-12 practice for the new school is conceived as two programmatic bars in an “L” shape. A bridge spans flexible, light-filled, multiuse information commons and dining spaces, stitching the two programs together. The building’s form and position on the site provides IHS with sweeping southern views, a dining porch, a terraced landscape, and a large multipurpose field.