On Tuesday, parents and community members met for the third time to discuss updates for the new Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School being built under the district’s 2012 bond program – with a particular focus on the construction portion of the project and upcoming vertical steel.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in December, and since then, significant progress has been made in building the new school – despite record rainfall recently.
“We are making good progress and feel really good about where the project is right now. The ultimate goal is to be ready for school to start in the fall of 2016,” said Tammie Newman, senior project manager with Satterfield and Pontikes Construction. “We’re doing another major concrete pour tomorrow.”
The school, which alternates instruction in English and Mandarin Chinese, currently is 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. The new $32.2 million school will be located in the 5400 block of W. Alabama, adjacent to the School at St. George Place.
Some of the nearly 60 community members in attendance – a mix of Mandarin and St. George communities – voiced concerns during the meeting about safety and competing school traffic between the two campuses. Currently, there is a plan to stagger the two schools’ start and end times to minimize traffic flow through the area. Measures will also be taken with fencing to ensure safety along West Alabama.
“We’re located on a busy street – West Alabama. My concern is to make sure with the really young children that the safety is the top priority,” said Lisa Lim, PTO president for the Mandarin school. “We’re really excited about the new build, but we also want to make sure that the new school is safe.”
HISD Trustee Harvin Moore, who represents both campuses, also emphasized a creative idea to create a floodwater detention pond that is spread out and open over a large area, rather than small and fenced-in. This will allow both campuses to recapture open field space.
“This means the kids can enjoy that, and it’s not wasted space. Space and land are so expensive in Houston, and that small out-of-the-box thinking is going to result in something that’s really amazing,” Moore said.
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.
As the school grows up to a potential enrollment of 900 students, the new 119,000-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.
School Principal Chaolin Chang, who led the meeting along with St. George Place Principal Dave Wheat, said the meeting provided some valuable information for both school communities.
“Tonight’s meeting was very successful because the team answered a lot of our questions and our parents are very excited about the potential of two communities working together,” Chang said.