Wharton Dual Language Academy stakeholders get first glimpse of initial design for new building

Wharton Dual Language Academy stakeholders on Wednesday learned more about the site plan and preliminary design for a new addition and renovations to the school’s current facility, which was built in 1929.

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About 50 people attended a community meeting at the school, which was the first of three meetings that will be held throughout the project. Architects from Munoz Architects presented preliminary plans for a new three-story building addition that would complement and connect to the existing historical building, forming a courtyard for an outdoor learning area.

Principal Jennifer Day said in designing the new $35.6 million building, the Project Advisory Team and architects were keeping in mind the unique needs of the campus, which features a dual language program and is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School.

“We want to capture some of the character and history of our campus, but also build a new building that meets the needs of the 21st century student and really supports the Global Graduate profile that HISD is moving toward – and we fit into that perfectly,” Day said.

With the addition of the new building, the plan is to take the main entry from West Gray to Columbus Street. The architect team said that the new three-story structure, which includes cross-courtyard views, is very much in keeping with surrounding buildings in the area.

“We’re very excited and can’t wait to get feedback,” said Casey Annunzio, architect with Munoz & Company. “We really want to keep our ears open, listen, and respond to all the ideas coming at us for a more successful project.”

Some other preliminary features of the design include:

  • Central courtyard that is the “corazon” (heart) of the school
  • Central courtyard should connect the different areas of the school
  • Main Learning Commons is the “cerebro” (brain) of the school
  • New building is like a village/pueblo
  • Centrally located dining near drop-off/pick-up area
  • Second-floor gym
  • Learning gardens

“I like the fact that we’re giving our input. I think (the current design) meets our needs,” said Project Advisory Team member and early childhood teacher Martha Elena Rangel. “As a teacher, I feel that I’m being heard. Believe it or not, some of the Guiding Principles are ones that I helped put in there.”

Under the current schedule, Wharton would begin construction by the third quarter of 2017, with a target opening date for the 2019-2020 school year.