From the bird’s-eye perspective of Google Earth, nothing in central Fayetteville or the adjacent University of Arkansas has a larger footprint than the new Fayetteville High School. Its two buildings, each 600 feet wide by 250 feet deep, appear like a supersize equal sign sitting on a hillside site.
Designed by DLR Group, Hight Jackson Associates, and Marlon Blackwell Architects, this 535,000-square-foot project was commissioned by Fayetteville Public Schools to accommodate a growing student body. Faced with an antiquated, undersized facility as well as pressure from the community to keep the central location, the city officials opted to expand and improve the existing 33-acre campus rather than split it into two smaller, distinct institutions. According to school administrator Alan Wilbourn, the district student population has not reached the 14,000-student tipping point to justify two high schools. Large enough for as many as 3,000 students, the modernized campus, built in two phases, was completed in 2015. In the first phase, which took two years, a new steel-frame and concrete-block structure that replaced elements of the existing school was built on the southern side of the site, near the bottom of the slope. It houses the sports and performing-arts facilities, and the cafeteria. The 36-month second phase involved an addition to the existing classroom building—similar in form and materials to the earlier project—while incrementally renovating much of the existing structure, all without disrupting the school schedule.