Built in 1987 of an all-modular construction, Rancho Elementary School lacked identity, and was experiencing declining enrollment. SWC designed a comprehensive modernization and portable replacement. The new construction transformed this campus into a vibrant community school.

An addition to the administration building created a new welcoming face to the campus and improved program needs. Portables were replaced with a new building featuring a state-of-the-art library, six classrooms with interior collaboration spaces and an Idea Lab with direct access to an exterior learning garden.

The new building and administration addition were carefully sited as bookends, creating a central spine across campus.

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Rancho Elementary School Modernization project was guided by the Temecula Valley Unified School District Master Plan, which included scope to replace portable classrooms with permanent classrooms and a comprehensive modernization of the entire campus.

Situated on the edge of Temecula where the housing type transitions from master plan golf course neighborhoods to more rural housing with acreage, the campus and Temeku Hills Park across the street served as a community hub in the area.

However, the existing campus of Rancho Elementary Schools sits above street level, so the original one-story buildings were not prominent from the surrounding area. This led to a lack of identity of the school within the neighborhood.

The administration facilities building lacked good function, including supervision, safety and most importantly space. Limited space and student growth prompted the addition of a 12-classroom modular building and several banks of portable buildings, which isolated students from the
main hub of the campus.

The disjointed modular buildings were originally placed in a wheel configuration with the lunch hub serving as the only  collaboration/ connection space on campus.

The thrust of the design solves the client’s problems through the improvement of natural observation, security, cohesion, and connectivity.

Budgets did not allow for the replacement of the modular buildings but allowed for replacement of the existing portable classrooms.

The modernization created a central spine linking a new administration building to a new building, which houses classrooms, collaboration spaces, the library, and an Idea Lab.

Another key feature of the modernization is an update to the existing buildings using design language from the new buildings; specifically, repeating of vibrant roofing materials throughout the campus to update and link all buildings together, giving the school a visual connectivity.

StudioWC Steps In

A comprehensive planning effort was conducted, which included the site staff, TVUSD Facilities and Maintenance Departments, the construction manager, and our project team.

The initial planning quickly revealed the need for administrative improvements, collaborative spaces, state-of-the-art learning spaces and a comprehensive modernization of the existing modular building.

Due to the constraints of the campus configuration, and lack of alternative access, the team determined the safety of the students and staff would be best protected if the campus could be closed for one school year.

This prompted the team to conduct a significant community engagement effort, including community outreach, mailers, and board meetings. The school was successfully closed and reopened in one year with little disruption to learning.

The new administration addition provides visual identity and serves as the main point of entry for the campus and as an anchor point to the East side of the school.

The new construction establishes a bookend on the West side of campus. It was also designed to serve as a way-finding element from the street and when on campus. The existing exterior walls of the original building remain while all interior walls were removed.

The modernization linked the new administration building to the new building housing classrooms, collaboration spaces, the library, and an Idea Lab. Flanking this are the existing classrooms which now create a fluid connection between existing and new bookends.

In the decades since it was built, student growth had prompted the addition of a 12-classroom modular building and several banks of portable buildings, which isolated students from the main hub of the campus.

However, prior to the decision to undertaking a comprehensive modernization and new building addition, the school’s enrollment had started to decline, and the facility had made the decision to host a charter school in order to fill the empty classrooms.

Although the decision was difficult, once the upgrade and new construction were funded, the closure of the school became the seed for recreating community engagement and assisting the rebirth of a twenty first century Rancho Elementary.

To start the work, SWC needed to redesign disjointed modular buildings that were initially placed in a wheel configuration with the lunch hub serving as the only collaboration/connection space on campus.

In addition, we wanted to update the existing modular administration building which was built on permanent foundations. It was undersized, not easily accessible and couldn’t meet the needs of a modern academic program.
The modular nature, configuration of the haphazard placement of buildings and poor function of the administration building, created a lack of identity and a significant sense of impermanence.

Janet Dixon

Director of Facilities Development | Temecula Valley Unified School District

“Our confidence in Studio WC resulted in the firm being selected for a high profile project that is currently under construction. The project is a major modernization of Rancho Elementary School, which includes three new buildings, an addition to an existing building, the addition of a bus loop in challenging terrain, plus some substantial modernization work on other existing buildings.”

“Studio WC, in addition to the school architectural experience, also has substantial civil engineering background which has been a major asset on this project in particular.”

rancho elementary school


Today the campus is buzzing with energy. The new administration building welcomes family and the community both visually and functionally. A large conference room and teacher collaboration areas provide room for large family participation in IEP’s or other activities important to their students.

Students, family, and the community now have access to a state-of-the-art library, a large Idea Lab with a connection to a new gardening area with outdoor vegetable wash and prep. This outdoor learning environment was created to enable education outside the traditional four walls.

Rancho Elementary School was designed with sustainability in mind. Although the district chose not to pursue CHPS, a tally of the Shared Scope Scorecard reveals this project at over 200 points. A new energy management system, upgrades to the filtration systems, walk off mats, low VOC materials are just a short list for improving indoor air quality. for this project.

The new buildings have natural lighting, ventilation, and connections to the outdoor spaces to create biophilic elements important to the successful education of the students. The project also focused on water conservation. Strategies employed included removal of grass landscaping in the school entrance, which was replaced by native xeriscaping and low-water plants.

Biofiltration basins with first-catch stormwater interceptors were installed to keep downstream systems free of contaminant discharge. These are integrated with the garden area for a potential demonstration area for water quality.

Of notable mention was a targeted goal of 80% ZNE, which features a large battery system and a large array of solar panels were located over existing asphalt play-area to offsite energy use for the campus and also provide shading and reduction of heat island effect.

SWC was chosen for this project having previously completed five modernization projects for Temecula Valley Unified.

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