Members of the Bellaire High School community gathered Thursday evening to learn about the status of the planning and design phase of the school’s new construction project.
As part of HISD’s 2012 bond program, a new Bellaire High School will be constructed that will provide students with a 21st century learning environment and incorporate the recently completed science classroom and laboratory wing.
At this first of at least three bond community meetings to discuss plans for the school, PBK architect Melissa Turnbaugh presented two possible options for meeting attendees to discuss. One would allow students to stay in the current building while the new school is built adjacent to it on the current athletic fields, and the other would involve moving the students to other temporary locations for the two-year construction period and building on the current site.
“This is a small site for such a big school,” Turnbaugh told the group which numbered about 400. “As a starting point for discussion purposes, we’ve selected these two options which seem to be the most viable designs of many we have discussed with the Project Advisory Team.”
The Project Advisory Team (PAT) is made up of parents, students, teachers, neighbors and construction and design personnel and is charged with making recommendations to the district on all phases of the project from design through construction. Bellaire HS Principal Mike McDonough is a member of the team and has been working with them since last year to find an effective solution which balances student needs with community impact.
“The planning of a new school is hard work – very hard work,” McDonough said. “This community is important to me. Bellaire High School is important to me, and the experience the students have here is important to me. Our number one priority is to make sure we take care of our students.”
After meeting in the auditorium for the initial presentation, attendees split into breakout groups to discuss and record their thoughts on the options presented and to rate each one according to the four risk factors of Safety, Student Life, Construction Schedule, and Community Impact.
They completed both an individual and a group questionnaire and were asked to submit any other comments in writing. The comments submitted, which will be transcribed and included on the website, will be reviewed and considered by the PAT as the planning phase goes forward.
“We hope to get lots of ideas this evening,” said PAT member Judy Long. “We’re open if someone has more thoughts and a different perspective.”
After the breakout portion, attendees who gathered back in the auditorium were given the opportunity to make comments and address questions directly to the PAT and district representatives.
Comments about the design options varied greatly. Some neighbors were concerned about setting the building back farther in their neighborhood and the increased noise and traffic that would involve. Some students and teachers were concerned about moving students to other campuses, which would possibly involve separating them by grade. Others felt that the school is too densely populated and that the district should consider rezoning the school to decrease the number of students.
HISD Trustee Mike Lunceford, who represents Bellaire High School, participated in the meeting and appreciated the perspectives shared by the group.
“The feedback we gather tonight will help us to understand the issues we need to deal with,” he said. “The more input we can incorporate into the plans, the better school we’re going to get in the end.”