Less than 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Port Arthur, Texas, Port Acres Elementary School is a celebration of all that it means to be a kid growing up in the Gulf Coast Region. From the coastal planes to the depths of what some scientists regard as one of the most geologically interesting stretches of the Earth’s surface, students at Port Acre start learning before they make it to their classroom.

Located on approximately 19 acres of previously developed land, Port Acres Elementary replaces an existing school. Originally conceived on the “Open School” model popularized in the 60s, the campus could neither meet the needs of the growing community nor adapt to modern teaching methods. With virtually every meeting taking place at the existing school, engagement during the design process was unprecedented. BRW experienced firsthand what was and was not working for the students and staff. The new one-story facility brings the school’s entire population under one roof for the first time in its history.

Fronting onto the main thoroughfare, a pair of porches creates a welcoming and sheltered entrance for students, staff, and visitors. The lobby is filled with natural light and connects to administrative areas, the media center, cafeteria, and gymnasium. North-facing windows allow controlled natural light throughout the facility while preventing undesirable heat gain. Elevating the structure and designing the site to accommodate storm surge address the flat terrain and the region’s propensity for extreme weather.

While life in the region has its challenges, it also offers countless rewards. The rich natural history and ecological legacy of the area are reflected throughout the school. From the color palette to the graphic depiction of the distinctive flora and fauna of the area, Port Acres Elementary creates a sense of identity and pride for students, faculty and staff.

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