Parker Elementary community gets first look at plans for new school

During a community meeting on Tuesday night, Parker Elementary shared plans about how its 55-year-old school will be replaced with a new two-story facility, complete with green spaces on two sides and musical performance hall.

“We want you to see the direction the new building is going in,” Principal Lori Frodine told the group of more than 50 parents, staff and community members.

Parker, a music magnet school, received $29.4 million to build a 21st century school that will be funded under the district’s 2012 bond program. The 132,000-square-foot building also will feature collaborative and flexible classrooms, outdoor learning areas, and a community plaza.

The building will be designed by Brave Architecture and will be constructed by Brae Burn Construction. The existing school will be open during construction, which is scheduled to begin in mid- to late 2015 and last about 14 months. Fencing will be added to the site to separate and secure the construction site from the existing building.

The proposed area of new construction for Parker faces a community park in the Westbury neighborhood and requires moving the existing school’s temporary buildings to place the new building on the site.

“What we’re proposing is to maintain a connection between the school and the park,” said architect Chris Sheridan. “There are aspects of the existing school that we want to carry through to the new facility, too, such as the habitat garden and the pine trees.”

The school’s main entrance will move to Stillbrooke Drive, where an outdoor community plaza will sit just outside the school’s performance hall to allow for outdoor concerts and performances. Near the entrance will also be a parent drop off area and a staff and visitor parking lot.

“We’re trying to push the main door further away from the street, so as kids come out of the school, they’re away from traffic,” said architect Fernando L. Brave.

Behind the school, athletic fields will be placed where the existing school is currently located after it is demolished. A breezeway will be added to allow students to easily walk from the fields and the bus drop off area to the school. The new building will open up to green spaces on both sides, allowing students to look out at trees and the outdoors.

“I think it will be less distracting for students when they can look at trees and the outdoors instead of traffic and cars,” said Parker parent April Armwood. “It will provide the students with a more serene learning environment, too.”

During the design process, fourth- and fifth-grade students had the opportunity to speak with the architects and shared ideas for the new building to include larger music rooms and learning areas and separate spaces for the school cafeteria and auditorium.

“It was very fun to share our ideas because it felt like people actually cared about our ideas,” said fifth-grader Isabel Pitts.

HISD board trustee Wanda Adams said engaging the students and the community in the school’s design process gives them some ownership in the future of the building.

“It’s very important for the students and the community to be engaged in a project like this,” Adams said. “We want Parker to continue to thrive. I look forward to walking this road with them and supporting these creative ideas as we get ready for a brand new Parker.”

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