New Energy Institute High School to feature innovative spaces

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How do you build a school so it doesn’t look like a school? And why?

The Project Advisory Team at Energy Institute High School has spent a lot of time coming up with answers as they plan and design a $37 million campus for the nation’s first school dedicated exclusively to energy studies.

“We have eradicated the use of the word classroom,” said Jim Jelliffe, of VLK Architects. “It’s not your traditional school.”

Instead, imagine a 110,000-square-foot hi-tech corporate environment, a structure you might see in Silicon Valley, with multi-level areas for work and projects. A central courtyard with cascading stairs and trellis will expand available space for socializing and learning.

“When you walk into the school, you’ll immediately see learning going on,” Jelliffe told a crowd of more than 60 people who turned out Tuesday to hear about the new school.

The community meeting was held at the Energy Institute’s temporary quarters at 1808 Sampson, in Houston’s Third Ward. The event was the first of three gatherings to update the community on the project’s progress.

Principal Lori Lambropoulos discussed the school’s novel approach to teaching through project-based learning. The goal is to develop students with a strong academic foundation in science, technology, engineering and math, and who are skilled at communicating, taking initiative and pursuing leadership opportunities.

“These skills are just as valuable as your students making A’s and B’s on their report card,” she said.

Avin Pasalar, a 10th-grader at the school, said she’s especially excited about the outdoor learning spaces. Pasalar, along with several of her fellow students, has been serving on the Project Advisory Team to ensure student opinions are incorporated into the design of the new building.

The innovative architecture, she said, will have a positive impact on students. “The more inspiring the place, the better ideas we get,” she said.

The new school will be built for 800 students on 12 acres along Southmore Boulevard at Tierwester, on land previously used by Lockhart Elementary.

Richard Tesson, a parent, said he’s thrilled with the new location and the preliminary designs. His daughter, Alexandra, has been thriving in the school’s project-based environment. “It’s just a natural fit,” he said.