Grady MS community gets progress update for new building addition under 2012 bond

Temporary buildings used for classroom instruction at Grady Middle School could be gone as early as the summer in preparation for a two-story building addition that will connect to the campus’ existing facility.

“Temporary buildings are great, but the whole point is that they’re temporary,” said Principal Gretchen Kasper-Hoffman during a community meeting Monday night at the school. “We have to do what’s best for our students now and for our future students to ensure we have a sustainable building that will be here for years to come.”

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Parents of current and future Grady students attended HISD’s second community meeting on the building project to learn about the project schedule, construction work and the building features.

Grady received $14.8 million to build an addition to complete the Galleria-area campus. The school’s main building was replaced under the HISD 2007 bond program and opened to students last year. Natex Architects was selected under the district’s 2012 $1.89 billion bond program to complete phase two of the construction project that includes a new building addition and a baseball and soccer field.

Construction is expected to begin mid- to late 2014, and students will continue to attend school at the main building during construction.

“We’re doing all we can to make the school look like it was built as one building,” said John Haugen of Natex Architects. “Traffic flow around the school will be pretty much the same, but on-site traffic will be much more improved with a new parking lot and parent-student drop-off and pick-up areas.”

Preliminary designs show the 54,000-square-foot building addition divided into three transparent academic neighborhoods – one for sixth, seventh and eighth grade. The neighborhoods will revolve around a shaded courtyard that serves as a central gathering place for students. The learning areas will include flexible science laboratories and spaces that open up to a corridor and have movable wall partitions to allow teachers to easily combine classes for collaborative learning opportunities.

“The whole point of an IB (International Baccalaureate) campus is for students to really work together and for us to be able to connect learning across curriculums,” Kasper-Hoffman said.

The building will also allow for opportunities to take classes outside to an outdoor learning area with a nature center that includes planting gardens, a pond and a rain water collection tank that will be used to teach students about sustainability.

“This (school) is going to be a jewel of the neighborhood,” said Ellecia Knolle, a Grady parent and member of the school’s Project Advisory Team. “This will not just be a building. This is a real opportunity for teachers to use the building as a learning tool.”

The building, which will be constructed to meet standards to receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver certification, will have energy efficient features in the lighting, heating and cooling systems and include recycled building materials to reduce energy waste and allow for more natural light into the building.

“We want our students to get the feeling of college and the world when they enter our building,” Kasper-Hoffman said. “A clean, bright and welcoming building will help our students feel successful.”