Meet the Newest, Coolest High Schools in the U.S.
These high schools have pushed the envelope when it comes to architecture, design, academic rigor and overall excellence.
Newest, Coolest High Schools in the United States
One point of pride for any community is the quality of its high schools, especially the ways in which they prepare students for college and adulthood.
In the last few decades, school districts, dioceses and private school foundations have continued to push the envelope as to how great these high schools can be. Modern design techniques involving new technologies, open-air layouts and tons of natural lighting transformed these high schools well beyond your typical place to learn into building blocks for an entire community.
For the purposes of this list, schools that were considered either opened or underwent a major renovation in the last 20 years. Take a look at the newest, coolest high schools in the United States.
30. Camino Nuevo High School
Location: Los Angeles, California
Bottom line: Camino Nuevo High School is the front-facing part of the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy system in Los Angeles, which includes two elementary schools and two middle schools. And that front-facing part is something to behold — a striking, gray monolith that looks like a spaceship.
Kevin Daly Architects firm in Santa Monica designed the visually striking school that serves a student population, which statistics show draws from lower-income families in the surrounding area. Over 90 percent of Camino Nuevo students qualify for free or reduced lunches.
29. Samuel V. Champion High School
Location: Boerne, Texas
Bottom line: Champion High School opened in 2008, drawing half of its students from nearby Boerne High School. It was honored for its architecture and design by Pfluger Architects, including the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence for its implementation of natural lighting and a rainwater harvesting system.
That means they've thought of much better ways to use the natural resources they have access to than 99 percent of high schools in the nation.
28. Maize South High School
Location: Wichita, Kansas
Bottom line: The West Wichita suburb of Maize began to quickly outgrow its one high school, Maize High, in the late 1990s, and local leaders moved quickly to plan for another one.
What they got was a slick, modern high school in Maize South … that isn't actually in Maize, it's in Wichita, which is nitpicking because the lines between being in one or the other can change from one street to the next in that particular area.
And those school colors — Vegas gold, black and white trim — really pop. Go Mavs.
27. Crystal River High School
Location: Crystal River, Florida
Renovated in: 2012
Bottom line: Originally opened in 1969, Crystal River High serves eight communities in its region, and the school's massive, two-year renovation beginning in 2010 earned it a spot on this list.
The renovation included three new classroom buildings as well as a new baseball field, media center and cafeteria that doubled in size.
26. Pacific Ridge High School
Location: Carlsbad, California
Bottom line: When you have a community as wealthy as the ocean resort community of Carlsbad, located just north of San Diego, you have the ability to build your own private school.
Enter Pacific Ridge High School — 14.5 acres in the south part of Carlsbad purchased by a group of families and turned into one of the most impressive high-tech high schools in the United States. It's also one of the most expensive — tuition in 2021-22 is around $35,000 per student, although the school gives out around $3.5 million in scholarships every year.
25. Shanley High School
Location: Fargo, North Dakota
Renovated in: 2010
Enrollment: 300-400 (est.)
Bottom line: Shanley High School's roots trace back to the 1880s, when it was originally founded as St. Joseph's Academy by a Catholic women's group whose members immigrated to North Dakota from Ireland.
The school became Sacred Heart Academy then finally Shanley High in 1950 but essentially became a whole new school in the 2000s when it began a $14 million project that moved the campus from North Fargo to an 80-acre plot in South Fargo and was completed in 2010.
24. Kiowa County High School
Location: Greensburg, Kansas
Enrollment: 60-70 (est.)
Bottom line: The residents of Greensburg were devastated by a tornado that destroyed the town in 2007, but they rebuilt in impressive fashion.
Kiowa County High School became a beacon of Greensburg's rebuilding as a sustainable living community — the school has an onsite windmill, is reliant on geothermal heating and was built to make practical use of natural light instead of artificial light.
Kiowa County isn't just an example of how to build an environmentally friendly school but is also a testament to the resiliency of the people of Greensburg.
23. Phoenix Union Bioscience High School
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Bottom line: Students at Phoenix Union Bioscience High School get to step into a modern masterpiece of architecture every day of the week. The $10 million project, designed by Orcutt | Winslow, was awarded the American School Board Journal's Grand Prize Award for its design in 2009.
Students at this stunning campus in downtown Phoenix have some crazy amenities at their disposal, including solar charging stations for their electronic devices.
22. Lovejoy High School
Location: Lucas, Texas
Bottom line: You'll feel like you're ready to get down with some knowledge when you walk about the campus at Lovejoy High School, which features tree-lined walkways everywhere you look and a welcoming, central courtyard for students to congregate.
Lovejoy High, located just north of Dallas, also has cutting-edge athletic facilities (it's still Texas) and has won six team state championships across three different sports despite only opening in 2006.
21. Ronald W. Reagan/Doral High School
Location: Doral, Florida
Bottom line: Located in the Miami suburb of Doral, Reagan/Doral High School was built to alleviate overcrowding concerns at Miami Springs Senior High. This seems like a deft move considering Reagan/Doral opened with 850 students in 2006 and is now home to almost 3,000 students, and that's with ninth-graders being sent to Doral Middle School for the last decade.
The 20-acre campus has an 800-seat auditorium and uber-modern media center, and the school itself has a high influx of international students and degree programs and courses that reflect as much — in 2013, 65.8 percent of Reagan/Doral students were born overseas, second only in the nation to Miami Springs.
20. Williamsburg High School for Design and Architecture
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Bottom line: While it might not be as aesthetically pleasing as some of the schools that made this list, we have to include Brooklyn's Williamsburg High School for Design and Architecture for a much different reason.
Mainly because on a list that celebrates so much great architecture and design, it would seem remiss to leave off a school that's actively producing the next generation of great architects and designers — the ones who will likely end up creating the next round of high-tech and modern high schools. Plus, it's in Brooklyn. Which is cool.
19. Mat-Su Career and Technical High School
Location: Wasilla, Alaska
Bottom line: Mat-Su Career and Technical School is so much more than its name — it incorporates aspects of bringing students to a better place to go right to a four-year college or go into tech school with equal aplomb.
McCool Carlson Green Architects designed the building, which is a whopping 76,000 square feet, and won several national awards in 2008 for the design, including an Educational Facility Citation Award from the American Institute of Architects.
18. Amino Leadership Charter High School
Location: Los Angeles, California
Renovated in: 2010
Bottom line: Amino Leadership Charter High School became the first Green Dot public charter school in Los Angeles in 2000, but it spent a decade in temporary facilities until its current campus opened in 2010. Widely thought of as one of the best charter schools in the nation since its inception, it has a Borg-like main building on campus that has to be seen to be believed.
What's been a bigger surprise for Amino has been the success of the boys soccer team — they won the first of three CIF Division 6 championships in 2007 and won a Division 3 CIF Regional Championship in 2013.
17. School of the Future
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bottom line: The Microsoft-funded School of the Future isn't the only one of its kind, it's just the best of its kind.
A joint design project between Microsoft, the School District of Philadelphia and architects from The Prisco Group, School of the Future sits on 8 acres of prime real estate in West Philly and was created with the idea that other locations could replicate it in its entirety … kind of like a factory model for schools?
Either way, kids that are lucky enough to go to School of the Future have access to the most cutting-edge technology available — including robots that wander the school's hallways looking to help them out.
16. Adelson Educational Campus
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Bottom line: The Adelson Educational Campus was originally called the Hebrew Academy of Las Vegas, then the Milton I. Schwartz Hebrew Academy, before receiving a $25 million gift from the late billionaire hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, to create the ultra-modern campus it has today.
The Adelsons, with an estimated fortune of $33.5 billion, followed their initial gift with another gift of $50 million in 2013 to get the school to its current form — one of the more generous acts of philanthropy for a secondary school in Nevada history.
15. Mainland High School
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Bottom line: The next time someone tries to run down professional athletes as being selfish and self-centered — there's plenty of examples — please make sure to tell them about former NBA star Vince Carter and his $6 million gift to his alma mater.
Carter, who made $171.8 million in 22 seasons, was able to jumpstart the construction of "New Mainland High" — five new buildings set up around an expansive courtyard.
Mainland thanked Carter, the school's greatest athlete of all time, with a statue they unveiled in 2007 … although we think they missed out on an opportunity to put Carter's greatest moment in bronze, which is coincidentally also the greatest dunk of all time.
14. Volcano Vista High School
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bottom line: You can make an argument that there are better campuses on this list, but you really can't make an argument that there's a better name than Volcano Vista High School.
Volcano Vista High is also one of the newest schools on the list, as it didn't open until 2007 and didn't have full grades 9-12 until 2009.
The striking thing about the front-facing entrance to the school is a massive, rust-colored obelisk that welcomes students and visitors. Beyond that, there's modern, earth-toned, glass-dominant buildings dotting the campus that push the futuristic vibe.
13. Metea Valley High School
Location: Aurora, Illinois
Bottom line: Metea Valley High opened in the 2009-10 school year with a whopping price tag of $124.7 million — money well spent to make one of the most beautiful high school campuses in the country.
Massive overcrowding in the area school districts was what got Metea Valley built in the first place, but architects at DLR Group knocked the design out of the park. This new-age, modern school is really amazing because of its sheer size. It's designed to have up to 3,000 students.
12. Kodiak High School
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Renovated in: 2015
Bottom line: No school on this list can compete with the sheer remoteness of Kodiak High School, located on Kodiak Island on the fringes of the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean and only accessible by boat or plane.
Kodiak High's facelift to a modern, sleek marvel was completed when the school expanded in 2015 — glass, steel and wood on the front-facing entrance welcome students, and inside it's an array of interactive classrooms and commons areas.
The school's expansion didn't come cheap, though. It was completed at a price tag of approximately $81 million.
11. Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Enrollment: 1,000 (est.)
Bottom line: Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy opened in 2012 and was named for the famous inventor who became the second African American woman to receive a U.S. patent for her most famous invention and something that we still use today — the folding bed.
Goode's school is a science- and math-focused high school on the South Side that has partnerships with IBM, and students can graduate with up to two years of college credit, which is an incredible head start.
An amazing school with amazing students named for an amazing woman — bravo, Chicago.
10. Edward R. Roybal Learning Center
Location: Los Angeles, California
Bottom line: The one fact about the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center that makes it stand out is that it's believed to be the most expensive high school built in U.S. history — built over 23 years at a staggering final price tag of $377 million.
The Los Angeles school's construction was as fraught as any major Hollywood production that occurred in the town. Construction was halted in 1999 after underground methane gas was discovered and again in 2002 when workers found a seismic fault line.
It won't be hard to see where that $377 million went when you step on campus — there's even a 100-acre community park within its grounds.
9. Edison High School
Location: Fresno, California
Renovated in: 2015
Bottom line: Darden Architects started its upgrade of Edison High School in the early 2010s and turned the school, which continually ranks among the best high schools in the nation, into one of the more stunning architectural/academic buildings in the world.
The original Edison High structures were demolished in the 1970s, and the renovation gave it back some of that identity that was missing, with a stunning front of glass and steel that creates a very unique aesthetic.
8. Transmountain Early College High School
Location: El Paso, Texas
Bottom line: Transmountain Early College High School's campus embraces the aesthetic of the Southwest in perfect fashion — smaller, Spanish-style buildings against the backdrop of the Franklin Mountains.
Ranked among the nation's best high schools on a regular basis, Transmountain pulls from all regions of El Paso via a lottery of eligible students, with the payoff being the ability to earn two years of college credit and take classes through the University of Texas-El Paso by the time they graduate.
7. Marysville Getchell High School
Location: Marysville, Washington
Bottom line: One of the newest schools on the list, Marysville Getchell High didn't open until 2010. That explains the modern architecture, with lots of glass, wood and steel.
Architecture firm DLR Group was behind Marysville Getchell's design and reaped the benefits, winning the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International's annual award for school design in 2011.
6. American Canyon High School
Location: American Canyon, California
Bottom line: You can find plenty of jokes on Twitter comparing American Canyon High School to one of the most famous fictional schools of all time — Hogwarts Academy from the Harry Potter series of books and movies.
And that's fitting because American Canyon's campus really does seem like a magical place. Located in the middle of Napa Valley and opened in 2010, it's one of the better modern campuses we've ever seen. How cool would it be to spend four years here as a student?
5. High School for Construction, Trades, Engineering and Architecture
Location: Queens, New York
Bottom line: The High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture is located in Queens … and definitely has the longest name of any school on this list.
The structure of the school is striking. Is it cubism? Is it modern? The fact is that the architecture of the school itself kind of redefines what it means to be an education building. Whatever it is, it's really cool to look at.
4. Newton North High School
Location: Newtonville, Massachusetts
Renovated in: 2010
Enrollment: 2,100 (est.)
Bottom line: Newton North High is the oldest high school on this list, with its doors originally opened in 1859 — feel free to check our math on that one. Newton can go toe-to-toe with any of the sci-fi high schools on the West Coast that made the list, costing $197.5 million for a renovation that essentially created a new high school.
That money seems to have been well spent. Newton North was given the Award for Design Excellence in 2011 from the Boston Society of Architects and is now home to over 2,000 students.
Some of the school's features that set it apart? World-class climbing walls, a high-tech television studio and a theater department that could probably go on tour and rake in big dough if they wanted to.
3. Inderkum High School
Location: Sacramento, California
Bottom line: Local architecture firm Nacht & Lewis got the nod from the Natomas Unified School District to design Inderkum High School in the early 2000s, and 17 years later it still looks brand new with cutting-edge amenities to boot.
Inderkum's campus is routinely recognized as one of the most amazing in the world when it comes to high schools thanks in no small part to several upgrades — mainly a 23,000-square-foot library that links up to the school that was a joint project between NUSD, the Sacramento Public Library System and the Los Rios Community College District, with the roof of the library famously shaped like an open book.
2. Strawberry Crest High School
Location: Dover, Florida
Bottom line: Strawberry Crest didn’t even open until 2009 and got its name to honor the region’s vibrant strawberry industry.
The school’s architecture — it was designed by Long & Associates and construction was done by The Beck Group — conveys the feel of a high-tech campus, and its main building is a gray monolith with a striking, elevated and pointed edge at its front.
Being that it's in Florida, it also has elements that include hurricane-protection areas for the students.
1. Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts
Location: Los Angeles, California
Bottom line: You won't believe Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts is a public school, but it is — a stunning, magnificent public school that looks like something pulled out of "Blade Runner" or some other futuristic sci-fi film.
Its architecture is notable enough that passersby probably think it's some sort of cutting-edge museum or theater. It doesn't hurt that it's located smack-dab in between the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Disney Concert Hall.
It's also sometimes referred to as Modern High School No. 9 and cost a whopping $232 million to build.