The school typifies the design philosophy this architectural firm implemented in many of its school commissions in Texas and the United States. Conceived as “educational shopping centers,” as described in the architectural literature of the time, the decentralized design spreads out as separate buildings and outdoor activity areas. The complex is oriented diagonally to the city grid to catch the prevailing breezes and the north light. The one-story, one-room-deep, flat-roofed classroom pavilions are protected from direct sunlight by deep overhangs supported by steel I-beams that extend from the interior and create covered walkways to minimize noise as students circulate between facilities in the open air.
North of the railroad tracks in the Hispanic sector at 218 E. Juarez Avenue, the Helen W. Buell School (1928), by Harvey P. Smith, is constructed in a restrained version of Spanish Mediterranean in buff brick with simple cast-stone detailing. It recalls Pharr's early history when it served as the community's designated “Mexican School.”