Eastwood Academy design develops with collegiate model in mind

Eastwood Academy students want their new building to feel more like a college campus with learning commons where students can study independently and lounge with friends.

“Many school buildings look plain and boring,” said Eastwood student Rosemary Lugo. “I would like to see them bridge our building together almost like a mini-college with learning commons for students to hang out or read books by themselves.”

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The school’s Project Advisory Team, comprised of students, staff and parents, worked with architects and HISD facility planners at a design charrette Thursday to organize a design of a new building for Eastwood, one of 40 schools HISD will rebuild or renovate under the district’s 2012 bond program. The group shared ideas for the school to have a more flexible and modern building layout with collaborative learning spaces with more natural light, common areas and a courtyard with student pathways.

The new 32,000-square-foot building for the college preparatory charter high school will be built on a field adjacent to the school and will connect to the school’s existing new two-story classroom wing. Students will continue to attend the existing school during construction, which is scheduled to begin in mid-to late 2015.

“Having a courtyard with tables and spaces for students to hang out outside will be nice,” said Eastwood parent Christie Nugent. “I also want to see more sidewalks around the school because the school is on a busy street, and my son’s a walker. It will make the traffic flow at the campus much safer.”

The building will include a new student dining and multipurpose area, a career and technical education (CTE) center, library, an athletic facility, and a SPARK park that will develop the school grounds into a neighborhood park area.

“The students and staff want a more dynamic building that is energy efficient and sustainable with more comfortable learning areas and green spaces,” said architect Jonathan Wimmel of Prozign Architects, the firm designing the new campus. “They want a building that is more apt for technology with charging stations, work pods – things that have become a byproduct of the amount of technology we use today.”

The career and technology center will feature engineering labs, an area for the school’s cyber defense program and a multimedia space where students can make presentations. The center will also have access to an outdoor learning area where students in the engineering program can work on building objects outside.

“Since our campus will be moving to Linked Learning and PowerUp, we need a state-of-the-art CTE center to support our student career pathways,” said Principal Paula Fendley. “Our students deserve a 21st century learning environment that gets them excited about learning from the moment they walk inside. This new school will enable us to take our school to the next level, and it opens up so many possibilities for innovation and creation, skills our students need to be successful.”