Grady MS Project Advisory Team Visits Cy-Fair School to Get Ideas for Campus Addition

Equipped with cameras, notepads and open minds, members of Grady Middle School’s Project Advisory Team visited a new school in Cy-Fair ISD to get ideas for their campus, which will receive a new addition under the district’s $1.89 billion 2012 bond program.

“We wanted to see different ways incorporate the limited spacing we have with new, non-traditional classroom settings,” Grady Principal Gretchen Kasper-Hoffman said during the afternoon field trip to Salyards Middle School.

Grady is slated to receive $14.8 million to build an addition to complete the Galleria-area campus. The school’s main building was replaced under the 2007 bond program and opened to students last year. Natex Architects was selected under the 2012 bond program to do the addition.

Like each construction project under the 2012 bond program, Grady’s PAT will hold monthly meetings to facilitate ideas and suggestions and monitor the progress of construction.

The tour at Salyards was led by that school’s designer, Rayce Boyter, principal at SHW Architect Group. The goal was to help the Grady PAT visualize some of the latest features of 21st century schools.

At Salyards, halls and walls have been transformed into an open-design concept that includes glass walls between the classrooms and the main corridor to provide a window into learning environments. Some classrooms can be reconfigured because they have sliding panels for walls. Interactive flex spaces promote collaboration, and a courtyard in the center of the building visually connects the three floors.

“What I’d love to see at Grady is the glass walls that create transparency between the hallways and classrooms,” Ellecia Knolle, parent of a Grady incoming sixth-grader, said. “I’d also like to see the sustainable measures that are in place here, using the school as a learning tool versus a building.”

Knolle said she wants HISD to be one of the best urban districts in the country and hopes her work on Grady’s PAT will help create innovative learning spaces.

Boyter pointed out some key features of the building, which houses sixth-graders on the first floor, seventh-graders on the second floor and eighth-graders on the third floor. In keeping with the building’s smaller footprint, the second floor contains the gym, with locker rooms on the first floor below. The courtyard offers hands-on science instruction with a cistern for rainwater collection, sundial, compass, and solar-powered fans.

Rather than include separate computer labs, the designers incorporated wireless Internet access throughout the building for students to access with laptops in flex spaces throughout the school.

Seeing examples firsthand is a great way to visualize the possibilities, according to HISD Facilities Planner Dave Funk.

“These tours are a great opportunity to visit newer facilities to get an idea of what a 21st century school looks like,” Funk said.

Funk said the district will incorporate feedback from the PAT as the design process at Grady gets underway.

The school is among the first group of 17 schools scheduled to begin the planning and design phase this year under the 2012 bond program. Construction should be underway sometime in 2014, and the new addition should be complete no later than 2017.