Lamar HS hosts first community meeting to look at site plan ideas for new school

Lamar High School community members and staff on Tuesday night had a chance to learn about site plan development for the school being built under the district’s 2012 bond program – a school that will house more than 3,000 students.

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The new facility at Lamar will be four or five stories tall and will be built on Eastside Drive alongside its existing Westheimer Road building. It will feature a parking garage where the rooftop could be used for tennis courts and will have separate entries and exits for staff, students, and visitors. The school’s existing building, which is regarded as a historical structure, will be renovated and preserved to house the administrative offices.

Lamar High School Principal James McSwain said one of the goals in mapping out the new school has been to incorporate ideas used by companies like Google and ExxonMobil, organizing learning areas into small cohorts in a common area with seminar rooms around the outside.

“We think we are going to be at the leading edge of anything that’s happening in the country, as far as building a school that will support and be functional educationally in the future,” McSwain said.

The school’s Project Advisory Team – made up of teachers, students, and community members – is working with architecture firm Perkins + Will to firm up the site plan for the new school. The current version places a track/field with bleachers on an east-west orientation to the south of the existing main building. Farther south are baseball and softball fields, as well as three practice fields. A performing arts addition is planned on the west end of the current building.

Lamar algebra teacher and PAT member Brooks Straub said the team is working together to get the best result for the students and to incorporate 21st century learning concepts into the design.

“It’s been a really big collaborative effort with the PAT team,” he said. “Everyone has given great ideas … and everyone has been pretty open and receptive during the process.”

Students will stay on campus during construction, which will begin with the new building off Eastside. Once that building is complete, students will move in and renovation work will start on the existing historical building.

Architect Patrick Glenn, who addressed the crowd of about 50 people at the meeting, highlighted the challenge of building a large campus on a relatively small site.

“What’s very interesting to me is that this is going to be a tall school – probably four or five stories,” he said. “So to take some of the (21st century) educational ideas and blend them with a lot of great architectural ideas – that’s where the magic happens.”

Principal McSwain said that magic will happen with an eye toward flexibility for future generations.

“We’re using a building that’s 75 years old, and we think the people who designed it did a pretty good job,” he said. “We want people 75 years into the future to say the same thing about what we have done.”