Wilson Montessori K-8 community learns more about proposed renovations, new addition

Parents, neighbors, and HISD administrators on Monday gathered at Wilson Montessori K-8 for the first of three community meetings to discuss a proposed new addition and renovations to the school under the 2012 bond program.

As part of HISD’s bond program, Wilson will receive $18.9 million for the facility, located in the Montrose area.

“The community as a whole is tremendously excited,” said Wilson Montessori School Principal Beth Bonnette said. “The biggest piece of the design we’re excited about is that we’re able to expand our community, so we’re able to grow from approximately 550 students to at least 800.”

Wilson, built in 1924, will be renovated to maintain the historic character of its existing facility and replace its traditional classrooms with 21st century flexible learning spaces while honoring the Montessori curriculum.

The three-story building addition would feature learning centers, multipurpose rooms, and a new dining area connecting to the current building with natural lighting and outdoor space. Fourth- through eighth-grade students would be housed on the third floor of the new building, with plans for breakout and collaborative spaces.

“We met several times and talked about what kind of things we wanted and what was important to us as a community and made a list of goals and set forward from there,” said teacher and Project Advisory Team member Jeffrey Mollhagem. “We’ve got better space that’s designed for teaching, [and] the rooms are larger with natural lighting.”

Terry Smith of Smith & Co. Architects told the audience of about 60 attendees that architects worked closely with the school’s PAT since last fall on several different design concepts that addressed space limitations and traffic concerns with student drop-off.

“This has been a very intriguing and wonderful experience,” Smith said. “We’re bringing in a new program to this campus, creating a new middle school as well as an elementary school.”

Smith also noted that most of the buildings located within the Wilson neighborhood are multi-story, contemporary-styled residences with simple shapes, varying materials, and the use of sun shades over windows. The goal for the additions and alterations are to reflect a more modern design using brick, glass, and metal wall panels for the primary exterior building materials. The brick will be a contrasting color distinguishing the new addition from the existing original campus building structure.

While the new addition is under construction, a temporary neighborhood of four buildings will be constructed to house students while construction is being completed. Construction on the project is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2016 and take about 16 to 24 months to complete.

Principal Bonnette told the audience that with the world constantly changing, HISD and the community-at-large recognizes the importance of preparing students to fit the profile of a global graduate.

“You connect what we as Houston Independent School District are committed to creating global graduates who will be able to leave our schools … and be able to be productive citizens in the world,” Bonnette said.

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