Mandarin Chinese Immersion Magnet School hosts second community meeting

On Thursday, parents and community members met for the second time to discuss design updates for the new Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School being built under the district’s 2012 bond program.

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“A lot of what you’re seeing from the plan changes is a result of the first discussion, and it will continue as we move into the next phase to develop what each classroom and space will look like,” said Melissa Turnbaugh of PBK Architects to the crowd of nearly 75 people.

The school, which will be designed by the architect firm, is one of 40 schools HISD will rebuild and renovate into a 21st century learning environment. The focus of the school is to immerse students through a culture-rich environment that alternates instruction in English and Mandarin Chinese. The campus is currently located on Avenue B in Bellaire and educates students in pre-kindergarten through third grade. It will add one grade level per year to grow into a pre-K through 8th-grade campus.

Since earlier this year, the school’s Project Advisory Team has worked with the architects in several meetings to create a concept based on the Chinese characters for the sun and moon. The updated design focused on each classroom receiving more natural light, keeping up with the theme of the sun.

“We’re creating all of these spaces to be very flexible,” Turnbaugh said.

As the school grows up to a potential enrollment of 900 students, the new 118,000-square-foot building will accommodate any future changes to its program, including the learning commons area to double as a classroom or lab.

The design for the building’s common spaces, including the cafeteria, gymnasium and community areas, will represent the moon and allows for after-hours access for special events. Revisions to the original design now include a Chinese vegetable garden and walking track around the school’s play field.

Parent David Jenkins said that although he likes the updated design of the building, he would like to see more space designated for sports, including a soccer field.

Some community members voiced concerns during the meeting on school traffic competing with St. George School, located adjacent to the new site. Traffic remains an issue that HISD planners, architects members of the St. George Place Civic Association and the Tax Increment Re-Investment Zone are working to solve. Since the last community meeting, traffic studies have been underway to look at ways to save trees and minimize congestion on surrounding streets, including the school’s drop-off and pick-up areas.

School Principal Chaolin Chang said the meeting provided some valuable feedback from the community. Although traffic and parking are still a concern, he said everyone is doing their best in working together as a team.

Construction on the new facility at West Alabama Street and McCulloch Circle is scheduled to begin on nearly eight acres later this year. A third meeting will be held in the fall to go over revisions of the school design and feedback from the community.

“We want to make sure everything is right before the start of construction,” Chang said.