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Joplin High School, a 3 story black panel building with recessed white window lined facade and orange accent panels
Joplin High School

Flexible, Collaborative Campus


Joplin R-VIII School District

Project Location

Joplin, MO




488,000 SF

After a devastating tornado destroyed 10 Joplin schools in 2011, the district and community rallied to chart a course for uninterrupted education for their students. This effort began with the rapid design and construction of the James D. MacConnell award-winning interim high school, and continued with a new, permanent facility constructed on the site of the former building. DLR Group’s design for the comprehensive, replacement high school incorporates educational concepts to prepare students for a “career to college” experience. The center of the school, known as Eagle Alley, brings this theory to life. A coffee shop, student store, and lease spaces provide business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Joplin High School is designed to let a student experiment with a career pathway as in-depth as desired in a flexible and collaborative environment. Underclassmen have a chance to peer into career pathways of interest in technology, broadcasting, sciences, hospitality, culinary arts, automotive sciences, engineering, medical, and construction. Technology is a seamless component of the building infrastructure and an asset to flexibility for teachers and students.

The school’s landscape design provides a park-like setting for students and staff. Themed courtyards, from arts, commons, science and marketplace, and legacy, encourage students and teachers to use the site with places for outdoor experiments, studying, dining, and socializing.


One of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in the history of the United States struck Joplin, Missouri, May 22, 2011. The tornado traveled along a 13-mile path destroying Joplin High School, the only public high school in town, on graduation day.


Fast-Track Design

DLR Group’s fast-track design transformed an abandoned big box retail space into a 21st century high school in 55 days. The design was more than a stop-gap solution. It was an inspiration to students and served as a rallying point for the healing community. The school comprised six small learning communities that divided the larger student population into 200-student studios and offered a more intimate learning environment for students and staff. Small and large group collaboration areas with a variety of seating accommodated individual or group learning, while large openings, oversized pivot doors, and a diverse array of soft and structured furniture allowed students to customize spaces to fit their personal preferences. Many of these design features are found in the new high school.

The interim high school was more than a stop-gap solution. It was an inspiration to students and served as a rallying point for the healing community.


Guiding Principles

History has shown us that crisis and innovation have resulted in systemic change. In the case of the design for the New Joplin High School innovation and crisis occurred simultaneously resulting in a national model for the design of future-ready learning environments. Responding to the immediate needs of a community without a high school, the design team was given the task of planning, designing and documenting a 488,000-SF state of the art high school in 8 months. Flexible-innovative methodologies were applied in the educational planning, schematic design, and project delivery. The guiding principles for the design were: building relationships; personalized learning; community shelter; critical thinking.

Wood wrapped ceiling over booths, left, in room with flexible seating. Blue shiny panels on back wall with word Discover

Many of the design features from the interim Joplin High School are found in the new school.


2015 William W. Caudill Citation

American School & University Magazine

2013 Design Excellence Citation Award

AIA Kansas City

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