Hundreds celebrate the groundbreaking for new Parker ES

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Architect Christian Sheridan had a simple strategy for making sure he remembered what’s important while designing the new $29.5 million Parker Elementary.

He kept a list of more than two dozen must-haves for the new campus, authored by Parker students two years ago during a special workshop hosted by his firm, Brave Architecture, to gather input on everything from paint colors to windows.

On Saturday, in front of nearly 400 people who turned out to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new school, Sheridan’s two young daughters presented the list, matted and framed, to Parker Principal Lori Frodine as a reminder that the new school reflects the needs of the people who will use it.

“It’s about making sure this building is the best possible building, not only for the next few years, but the next 100 years,” Frodine told the crowd, gathered at the site of the future school, adjacent to the current facility off Atwell in Houston’s Westbury community.

The event featured performances by the school’s band and choir, with a special appearance by the Westbury High School Color Guard, who opened the ceremony. District IX Trustee Wanda Adams talked about the importance of having a strong feeder pattern for the community, which recently saw the fine arts magnet program restored to Westbury High School.

She thanked parents, students, neighbors and architects for collaborating to create the finest possible school for Parker. “Working together is what we do at Parker,” she said.

With construction slated to start soon, a fence has already been erected to separate the building site from the school. Jeff Jefferson, chief executive officer at Patriot Contracting, said the new school would be an “amazing facility.”

“We’re looking forward to be being part of it and getting it done as soon as possible,” he said.

Features of the new building include a 500-seat auditorium, expanded music and practice spaces plenty of natural light and flexible learning spaces. The project is on track for occupancy in the third quarter of 2017.

That date can’t come soon enough for Carol Kehlenbrink, the school’s magnet coordinator and member of the school’s Project Advisory Team.

“It’s been exciting,” she said. “Now we feel like it’s very real.” She is especially looking forward to the auditorium, which will give the school’s award-winning musicians a space to showcase their talent. “Our children will have a venue that sounds like a performance hall,” she said, adding that the venue will “let the children hear themselves the way they deserve to be heard.”

Fifth-grader Angelique Alvarez will be leaving the school this spring and heading to Johnston Middle School. She acknowledges feeling a little sad she won’t get to enjoy the new building, though she said she’d be visiting to see her younger brother, now in first grade. “I think it’s really going to look good,” she said.

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