Dowling MS community hears about plans for new school

Dowling Middle School community members and staff on Tuesday night had a chance to learn about some of the beginning steps in the design process for the new fine arts school, which is being built under the district’s 2012 bond program.

Harrison Kornberg Architects presented preliminary designs and a site plan for the south Houston school, which will begin construction in mid- to late 2015 and will be built for 1,300 to 1,500 students. The school will be built on fields adjacent to the school to the north and will retain its main entrance on Stancliff Street.

During a two-day design charrette in May at Rice University, members of the school’s Project Advisory Team collaborated with designers to discuss the pros and cons of the existing facility and to come up with a vision to transform the school into a 21st century learning environment. It was important to the school community to emphasize its fine arts program and make it a cornerstone of the design.

“The commitment to the arts in this school is significant,” said architect Daniel Kornberg. “The idea that the auditorium space and the whole arts wing is up front and near the front door of the school and is an important visual component as you arrive is going to say a lot about the school’s commitment to their arts program.”

Other features of the design, presented to about 30 people in attendance at the meeting, include a large secure courtyard area at the center of the school where students can gather throughout the day. The courtyard is bordered by a three-story academic building, the fine arts building, a dining commons and gym. The design also includes an abundance of natural light and transparency, so visitors can see interaction and learning in action from outside the school.

Dowling Principal Josefa Olivares said it was important to build a modern school equipped with flexible spaces and technology that propel students forward into higher education.

“We have a lot of talent in our school, so we want to make sure that we are using that talent and we have the space for it,” Olivares said. “So hopefully they can go to the (High School for the Performing and Visual Arts) and get a scholarship and go to college.”

PAT member and Dowling special education chair Janet Douglas said the PAT’s goals are in line with a 21st century learning environment.

“(We want to) bring about more areas where we can have collaborative learning in smaller groups and to make sure that there is technology in every classroom and that every student has access to technology,” Douglas said.

Attendees were able to view a 3D site plan model of the school and see how each component of the campus is organized. A new bus lane drop-off area would run behind the school on Buxley Street near the dining commons area. A new parking area also will be constructed on the far north end of the campus on land purchased by the district.

In addressing the crowd, HISD Trustee Wanda Adams congratulated the Project Advisory Team on its work and emphasized the need for the community to be engaged and involved in the process for the new school.

“We want to make sure that Dowling has the best school possible, and that is my number one concern,” Adams said.

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