New School Design Standard for Wichita High School

Dec. 11, 2019

Gone are standardized boxy structures, and instead spaces are filled with natural light that promote learning in a healthy environment.

Wichita, Kansas
Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey

A new campus, Wichita High School Southeast, replaces a 1950s structure and meets the community’s growing population needs with current design practices. The exterior showcases the school’s pride and adoption of cost-effective, durable materials.


“This was the first all new, comprehensive high school for the district since the 1970s, so they wanted something permanent, but modern,” say Malcolm Watkins AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, vice president of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey in Wichita, Kansas.


Kruse Corp. installed 42,200 sq. ft. of Citadel Architectural Products’ Envelope 2000 metal composite material (MCM) in charcoal gray and colza yellow. The panels were installed around the school’s second story and as canopies with an increased mcm concentration on the school’s technical-education atrium. The metal wall panels were selected for this technology wing to depict the school’s function on the inside, and this just happens to be one of Watkins’ favorite things.

Durable building materials include Envelope 2000 MCM, installed using the RainScreen (RS) attachment system. Envelope 2000 RS consists of 4-mm thick MCM panels with a durable, 0.105-in. thermoset phenolic resin core that provides an ultra-smooth substrate. The rs system allows incidental moisture to enter and then exit through weepholes. Duane Criswell, project manager with Kruse Corp., has seen more schools in Kansas turn to MCM because of MCM’s vast design options, long lifespan and durability.

“This is a cost-conscious client who wanted materials that are durable, so we looked for something that would last over time,” Watkins says. “The school district has used similar palettes on all their new buildings, and metal made sense because of that.”

Wichita High School Southeast, however, has more pizzazz than other recently constructed schools. As the home of the gold buffalo mascot with black and gold school colors, an image of a buffalo was created in the metal panels above the main entrance and in the overhang for the athletic complex. The Colza Yellow panels bring the school’s pride to the exterior of the building while adding a pop of color.

This fast-paced project was designed in eight months and built in two years. Timing for the building materials was crucial to the project’s success. Watkins says, “We used the route and return RS system, so we were able to get the building dried in while we were waiting for the cladding to be delivered.”


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