During a community meeting at Bellaire’s Condit Elementary School to discuss a new school being built under HISD’s 2012 bond program, one overriding theme emerged: the school’s long-standing ties to the community.
“Condit is more than just a school that happens to be in a neighborhood or community. Condit is really directly linked to our community,” Condit Principal Dan Greenberg told the crowd of about 65 parents, teachers and community members who gathered Tuesday night. “It’s rare to find a community that cares so much about the well-being of the school like we do here.”
VLK Architects, which is designing the new 88,000-square-foot, $25.5 million facility for 750 students, is incorporating that sense of community with the design concept of “A Ribbon that Ties the Community Together.”
The school will feature a centralized learning commons – a modern version of a library – surrounded by a two-story cluster or “ribbon” of classrooms grouped by grade level. The upper floors will contain higher grade levels and the lower floors with the younger students. The learning commons in the middle of the school will be an open, naturally lighted area with flexible seating and bookshelves used to define quiet spaces. The design also includes outdoor roof gardens.
Todd Lien of VLK Architects explained the concept of the centralized learning commons structure, with flexible furniture to help define spaces. “This has been used at campuses across the country,” he said. “It’s not this closed-in space – it’s this 21st century library where learning can happen throughout the school.”
The school, located at 7000 South Third, is being built on an adjacent park area. Once the school is built, 60,000 square feet of green space will be recaptured on the existing building space along Jessamine, South Rice and South Third. A double drop-off area will be retained on South Third and South Rice, and parking areas will be located on both sides.
Historical elements of the current school, including the arched entryway, cornerstones and wood flooring, will be preserved in the new building.
“In brainstorming with the architects, we would present one thing and the architects would work with us,” said PAT member and Condit teacher Michelle Driscoll. “We’re planning for the future – we’re not planning for today. It had to be flexible … and we’ve done our homework and toured other (schools) and brought back ideas.”
A third community meeting for the school will be held before construction is scheduled to begin late this year.