Schools getting ready for the 2012 HISD bond program don’t need to look far for helpful advice.
Just ask Peck Elementary School Principal Carlotta Brown, whose school was rebuilt thanks to the 2007 bond program. “I made my expectations to architects known from the beginning,” Brown said. “I told them I would be looking over things because I did not want sub-standard work.”
Brown’s vigilance paid off. Located in the Third Ward off Martin Luther King, Jr. Road, Peck’s new 750-student school opened in January after being consolidated with nearby McArthur Elementary School. Her goal was to make sure the new building reflected both campuses and communities.
“We wanted it to be a staple in the community,” Brown said. “And they (the architects) did a good job. People passing by can’t believe it’s a school; they think it’s a university.”
Brown and other 2007 bond principals said the key to success is a planning process that involves the community and parents. Schools undergoing renovation or construction in the 2012 program will be setting up Project Advisory Teams (PATs) to oversee the work. Participants are usually parents, neighbors, PTA members and teachers.
Involving the community is critical because it builds a sense of ownership, Brown said. “The community looks out for the school,” she said.
At Lockhart Elementary, also rebuilt under the 2007 bond program, Principal Felicia Adams said it was helpful to look beyond architect blueprints by visiting other schools. That gave PAT members a close look at the features they wanted in their new building, located on Rosedale. It also helped them articulate their wishes to the planners.
“We had a chance to dialogue with other teachers [at new schools] to determine what worked,” Adams said. The team was able to give the architects their visual perspectives, she said.
Lockhart’s staff also held assemblies where they displayed mock-designs, samples and photos to engage students during the planning and design phase. A similar process is under way with the 2012 program. Each bond campus will be holding at least three community meetings to help parents, students and neighbors get involved and build consensus.
“We were able to show the kids and parents what was coming to spark their interest,” she said. “That was a big part of the school coming together.”
Carnegie Vanguard High School Principal Ramon Moss spent much time engaging the community during the process of building his new school, located in Houston’s Fourth Ward neighborhood, some 10 miles north of the old campus on Scott Street.
“We were constantly asking questions,” Moss said. “Establishing relationships early on and articulating the vision of the school’s stakeholders is very important.”
During the school’s planning stage, Moss and his PAT met with civic groups, churches and community organizations to share ideas and expectations. The team also worked closely with architects, project managers and construction crews to ensure their work reflected the community’s vision.
Assisting the school was Carnegie’s PTO, he said. “Our PTO is very strong and a community within itself,” Moss said. “They are an example of outstanding partnership, dedication and loyalty to our school.”
Even though Carnegie Vanguard opened its new school at the start of the current academic year, Moss said its PAT still meets regularly to discuss concerns.
Moss said he’s excited that 2012 bond program will build or renovate 40 schools across the district. “We’re glad other students will have the opportunity to learn in a state-of-the-art facility like we do,” he said.