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The Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees got its first look at initial plans for the district's first new elementary school in nearly 70 years during its meeting on Feb. 9.
The school, which is planned to open in August 2017, will be located on land currently owned by Northway Christian Church and will be bounded by the church to the west, Northwest Parkway (the access road to NW Hwy.) to the north, Durham to the east and Wentwood to the south. The sale of the property to Highland Park ISD is still on schedule to be completed this spring.
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of Jonathan Aldis's presentation to the Trustees. Aldis is the lead architect for Stantec, the firm selected by the board in 2012 to serve as the district's architect.
Planning for the school began in earnest last summer when several HPISD teachers, administrators and community members visited school campuses in other districts to study the features and benefits of recently constructed classrooms. Many of the components they observed and wanted to include are being incorporated into the new school. Since then, focus groups consisting of community leaders, neighbors, parents and teachers have provided, and will continue to provide, valuable feedback into the final plans for the school.
Key elements included in the initial design are:
- classrooms averaging 800 square feet (the current elementary school average in HPISD is 750 feet)
- flexible learning spaces to allow for small or large group instruction
- a secluded outdoor classroom with a garden and small amphitheater
- a queue lane on the property for the safe delivery and pick-up of students
- a covered area at the front of the school to protect students from the weather on rainy days
- a large gymnasium that can be divided into two small gyms, when necessary
- a playground and soccer field adjacent to both the gym and the cafeteria
- an underground parking garage
- at the request of neighbors, a lane entering from the north side of the school in order to minimize the number of large delivery and trash trucks on Durham and Wentwood.
"As a board, we pledged that we would be transparent in how we approached our decisions in relation to the bond election approved by voters this past November," said Joe Taylor, president of the HPISD Board of Trustees. "It is exciting to see the work that has taken place so far on this school. We are heading in the right direction in building a new school that will provide both an outstanding learning environment for students and instill continued community pride in Highland Park ISD."
"This facility is still a work in progress but we are getting closer to a final design," said Dr. Tom Trigg, Highland Park ISD Superintendent. "We sincerely appreciate all of the input that has been received so far. As this is the first elementary school in HPISD in nearly 70 years, we want to make sure that it is reflective of the community's proud tradition of excellence in its schools."
The property is a challenging location on which to build a school for three reasons: 1) it slopes 20 feet from north to south; 2) it is accessible to city streets from only three sides, and; 3) at 4.3 acres, it is far smaller than most other elementary school campuses throughout the region and the state of Texas.
"Our team approached this school with the goal of creating the best possible long-term learning environment for the students of Highland Park ISD," Aldis said. "This school is being designed from the inside out in order to maximize the building's instructional potential."
The initial design calls for the school to be a red brick pattern similar to that of Highland Park High School. Due to the slope of the land and in order to be able to serve 770 students, the school will have three stories on the south side and two stories on the north side. The school's main entrance will face Durham and will feature a state of the art library as its centerpiece.
"The aesthetic of the exterior of the school is something that we are committed to getting right," said Jim Hitzelberger, the board's Facilities Chair who has been instrumental in the planning process. "We know how much pride this community has in the look and feel of its schools and we are continuing to refine what we already have. At the same time, it is important for each of the schools to have its own unique sense of character. This initial design is a step in that direction."
Current plans for the school call for construction to be completed in the summer of 2017 with an opening in August 2017. The school will temporarily be used by students from Bradfield, Hyer and University Park for one year each while each of their schools are being rebuilt. The order of which schools will be rebuilt is still under consideration.
To view more design renderings of the new campus, click here