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More than 70 members of the Garden Oaks neighborhood came out to learn about initial design concepts for Garden Oaks Montessori. The meeting on Tuesday was the first of at least three community meetings that will be held at various phases of the project.
As part of HISD’s current bond program, the school will receive new additions and general renovations to accommodate up to 900 students in pre-K through 8th grade.
Preliminary designs feature both new and renovated classroom spaces, a new multipurpose gymnasium, and a new secure main entrance. Additional parking and separate bus and parent drop-off driveways, as well as upgraded electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems are also included in the scope of work.
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“It’s an exciting time for our community and school,” said Dr. Lindsey Pollock, principal of Garden Oaks. “Our project team has been working hard to integrate the needs and wants of our school into the design plans. We have a ways to go, but it’s great to see the plans taking shape.”
The original facility was built in 1979 with an addition built in 1981. The school is a Montessori magnet and emphasizes environmental sciences with the goal of empowering students with 21st century learning tools.
“We’ve gathered a lot of information from our Project Advisory Team (PAT),” said Sam Swart of Hill Swart Chu Architects, which is designing the project. “It is a vocal, dynamic group that has opinions – they share them and that’s great.”
The plans for the new campus include flexible, child-centered learning spaces that will accommodate diverse learning styles with integrated technology. The PAT also hopes to retain most of the green space and trees that are important to the school and incorporate outdoor learning centers.
“It’s been very collaborative. From the very beginning we were quite focused on making sure we met the standards and goals of the Montessori philosophy,” said Brenda de Alba, a community representative on the PAT.
Montessori education is characterized by a constructivist approach to learning, hands-on materials, self-directed, interactive, and collaborative learning in a multi-age classroom setting. These essential components of a Montessori environment have been interwoven into the project’s guiding principles.
“It’s clearly a priority that HISD has as they do these projects, to get alignment and build support for the parents and the community, and get their input so that everybody’s on board with what the final product is,” said PAT member Matt Marcontell, who is also the parent of a Garden Oaks first-grader.
The school is in the early stages of the design phase, which will continue into next year. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.