La Veta PK-12 School

La Veta School District
Architectural Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Programming
PK-12 Education
La Veta, CO
Project type
New construction
CO-CHPS Certified

One school for all students

The La Veta PK-12 School was born from the La Veta School District’s desire to unify their separate campuses into one safe, cohesive and modern school. Forward thinking and adaptable, the new school provides expanded opportunities for their students within spaces that support project-based learning from the smallest learner all the way to the senior graduate.

Capturing the collective voice for an authentic vision

In many rural communities, schools serve as a source of local pride. The combined voice of the La Veta teachers, students, parents, and community members through meaningful engagement was a critical guide for the project from day one when our design team asked these various groups: how do you define success?

We chipped away at this question throughout four separate design advisory group meetings, school tours, staff, teacher, and student user groups, follow-up community meetings, and even a complete rebranding. When the vision of the new school emerged through this consensus-building process, the following core values were identified:

  • A place of pride for the community
  • Flexibility
  • Efficiency, both operationally and functionally
  • Unified, safe and secure school
  • Approachable and timeless in style
  • Maximization of views and daylight

This didn’t come easy at times. The site for the new school was home to the football field, unprotected from the high-speed winds that whip down the mountainside. Utility infrastructure was almost non-existent and there was only one singular entry. But what this site did have was 360-degree views with the Spanish Peaks almost at the front door, incredible solar access for natural daylighting, and the determination of the community to construct a welcoming and attractive school that would become a cornerstone for La Veta.

A building that grows with the student

Consideration of age progression is always at top-of-mind when designing combined-level schools. From the first step away from home to the last step as they embark in young adulthood, the process of education and growth should be highlighted and celebrated. For some students, this school will be their only school for the next 13 years.

This consideration provided the critical framework for the school’s interior and exterior design expressions as we sought to provide environments that grow with the student as they progress through their educational journey. At La Veta, classrooms and color palettes become more mature, furniture and window heights become taller, and more autonomy in movement from indoors to outdoors is provided.

While the arrangement of elementary, middle and high school students was intentionally separated and given their own identities, the students share in a cafe commons and gymnasium that celebrate views to the Spanish Peaks. Situated at the core of the school, these common areas not only provide safe connection to all areas of the building but reinforce the importance of community.

Building and teaching environmental awareness

Given the beauty of the natural mountainous surroundings, it was important for the school to complement its setting rather than compete with it. This meant taking advantage of the myriad ways the outdoors could be brought inward. Interior material palettes draw inspiration from the textures and colors of the landscape, while the exterior draws upon natural materials that complement its immediate context.

The orientation of the school and provision of clerestories was purposeful to capture copious amounts of daylighting. Native landscaping was chosen for water savings, and the building envelope was designed to exceed code minimums and reduce the strain on active building systems.

Along with durability, protection of the school’s surrounding environment was a priority for the district. The building itself is used as a teaching tool to show how sustainable features can lessen harmful impact while supporting student activity within. Design features are highlighted on a monitor at the main entrance of the school, multiple multi-stream recycling points are provided throughout, and informational signage and graphics explain the impact choices have on the local and global environment. Building sustainable human behavior starts in school, making this an effective way to teach it through direct learning opportunities.

Interior view of la veta PK-12 school
Interior view of la veta PK-12 school

Feature-and future-proof: flexibility and adaptability

For administrators, teachers, and students, the ability for the school to flex for the need of any particular curriculum, day, or moment was a core requirement the design team came back to time and again. The existing schools were of an age and time that physically presented barriers in direct conflict with modern educational needs.

To that end, spaces were designed to fit more than one singular purpose. Making the school’s square footage multi-use not only makes the most of a limited construction budget, but it also ensures space never sits empty for large stretches of the day.

The cafe commons space was designed to host the regular lunch cycle, but its grand staircase and adjacent data and power access allows it to also be used as an impromptu classroom. Its adjacency to the gym also means it serves as a community gathering space during events.

The media center and information commons were built within the grid structure to allow the creation of additional enclosed classrooms in the future if needed. Power and data infrastructure in the CTE classrooms is provided to suit a wide range of potential configurations. Built-in casework is limited throughout the school in favor of light and mobile furniture.

With high space utilization and the ability to adapt to an unknown future, not only are the core values of flexibility and efficiency addressed but an additional layer of timelessness that will carry the school forward for the next 50 years is provided.

Re-envisioning a community icon

The La Veta School District and its schools have long played a fundamental role in La Veta pride. This pride was thoroughly championed by its diversity of stakeholders throughout the design process. At over 100 years old, the district’s generational history tells a story of thrilling athletic feats and unforgettable performances and gatherings held within the gymnasium walls of the school’s campus. As a hallmark of La Veta’s community, capturing school pride was a clear need for the project. This is how its brand was (re)born.

To pay homage to the area’s rich history while conveying progression into the future, the district made the decision to redesign its brand identity—which included its mascot. The district employed a branding and graphics consultant to help create the vision for its new brand and mascot. To compete with neighboring schools and surrounding communities, the new identity had to relate to its greater context, the community, and ultimately instill student pride.

Careful consideration was given to the classic La Veta logo with an intent to keep the century-old and community staple of the overlapping L and V intact. A unique identity for the athletics program was created as a close sibling of the primary school brand. A new school crest was designed with inspiration drawn from the Spanish Peaks, sprawling farmland, and Wahatoya Creek.

Sensitivity surrounding historical mascot names and a desire to honor all members of the community inspired the district to transition from the Redskins to the Redhawks. While La Veta is rich in Native American history, the decision was made to relate to wildlife native to the south central region of Colorado. The redhawk, a regional bird of prey, was ultimately chosen through multiple community and board meetings as a perfect embodiment of the school mantra: “pride and poise.”

Exterior view of la veta PK-12 school


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