Parker, Relief elementaries fine-tune school designs during two-day workshop

Project Advisory Teams wrapped up a two-day design charrette on Friday for two of the district’s elementary schools being constructed under the 2012 bond program: Parker Elementary, a music magnet school in the city’s Westbury area, and Relief Elementary, a new campus in West Houston that is intended to relieve crowding at several nearby schools.

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Parker and Relief are among 40 campuses that will be rebuilt or renovated into 21st century campuses under the district’s 2012 $1.89 billion bond program.

Charrettes, or workshops, are being held for each bond campus as they transition from planning into the design phase. Architects are gathering ideas so they can translate them into conceptual designs.

“The benefit of doing a quick charrette like this is the intuitive moments,” said Christian Sheridan, architect with Brave Architects, which is designing Parker.  “It’s been a collaborative process and a really focused operation.”

The Parker PAT emphasized the need to focus on the school’s overall program in music and how the new school could utilize outdoor green spaces.

Preliminary designs place the new school in between two green spaces, including the school’s existing habitat garden and a public park on the other side – with views through to both park areas. The new building for 850 students is being constructed on 132,000 square feet of space adjacent to the current building where T-buildings now sit.

The design concept includes an option to open the auditorium and stage area to the outside, so that the community has direct access to the school’s music program and can see how those green spaces shape learning for students.

“One of the big things we’re looking at is our overall program and how we can better include music,” said Parker Principal Lori Frodine. “As an elementary school it may be unusual that we’re getting a performance hall, so that been a huge issue coordinating how that can fit into the space.”

The new Relief Elementary School is being built for 750 students on 10 acres of land on Old Farm Road between Buffalo Bayou and Westheimer.

Angelia Mackey, project manager with English & Associates, the architecture firm designing the school, applauded the collaboration that HISD has fostered in the design process.

“It’s great to have an interactive PAT group that goes around the table and is involved in our design process.” Mackey said. “We really enjoy and desire to do green projects – projects that really help the learning aspect for the children who are going to live in the school.”

The PAT and architects for Relief are working on a design that takes advantage of the site’s north-facing view of Buffalo Bayou and wooded areas. The design team came up with two bus and parent drop-off areas that do not intersect with pedestrian flow. Also incorporated into the design is space for future expansion, given the growth in that area.

Becky Luman, a parent at Briargrove who serves on the Relief PAT, said the team looked to the historical significance of the land and how that could benefit educational opportunities.

“This area used to be grasslands,” she said. “We have the ability to have our kids learn the importance of water and wetlands and how this used to be a wetland area.”

After brainstorming in separate sessions on Friday morning, the two groups joined to present their ideas to one another before returning to their individual work. The idea was to spark inspiration between the teams and share the unique challenges each group faces.

“The ideas we have gotten from the community, students and the schools have been phenomenal,” said Dan Bankhead, the district’s general manager of facilities design. “The projects are really going to grow from this point forward.”

2 thoughts on “Parker, Relief elementaries fine-tune school designs during two-day workshop

  1. Sandra Dean

    I hope that the new Parker Elementary school campus will have a butterfly garden. It would be a great learning experience for the students.

  2. Laurel Kelly

    This all sounds very exciting to me as I’m a nearby property owner/faculty member of Parker and former parent of a Parker student and am zoned to Parker. I love the idea of incorporating the existing green spaces and blending that with a facility that showcases the excellent music program that our school provides. This will be a fabulous asset to our community and I hope will attract more of our neighborhood students to attend our school as well.

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