As most of HISD and the City of Houston had a couple of unexpected days off this week because of rain and flooding, construction crews at the new Mark White Elementary School were on the job. With just 124 days until the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the workers know that each day is critical to ensuring that the school is ready in time to welcome students in August.
“It’s definitely a challenge because we are up against a hard deadline, but we have a good team in place working to make it happen,” said Brian Alling, HISD’s project manager of the Mark White Elementary project. “Both the contractor and architect deserve a lot of credit.”
The new school, which was designed by English + Associates Architects and is being built by DivisionOne Construction, is located on Old Farm Road between Buffalo Bayou and Westheimer and was established to help alleviate crowding in several existing schools in the west Houston area.
While the project was still in the design phase, the team adopted an ambitious timeline about 20 months before the target opening date, understanding the need to open the new school in August 2016. They completed design and construction documents, conducted required traffic studies, addressed drainage issues on the undeveloped land, completed extensive permitting requirements and more in about six months’ time, issuing a Notice to Proceed to the contractor in July of 2015.
“The bond department rose to the challenge, and is getting the school built in record time, despite a number of issues that were beyond their control,” said Trustee Harvin Moore, who represents the school. “I come out (to the site) almost every weekend, and I haven’t seen anything go up this fast.”
Designed to accommodate 750 students in Pre-K through grade 5, the school will also offer a French dual-language immersion program, the first public school program of its kind in Texas. The program will start with Pre-K and Kindergarten students in the first year, adding a grade level each subsequent year. All of the dual-language spots filled up quickly for the inaugural year, and currently there is a waiting list. When fully implemented, 40 percent of Mark White students will be enrolled in the dual-language immersion program.
In total, about 500 students have enrolled in the school to date, leaving room for 250 additional students. As a non-zoned school, Mark White has no attendance boundary, so any HISD student can apply. However, because the school was designed to help relieve crowding at nearby schools, students zoned to Briargrove, Emerson, Pilgrim, and Piney Point elementary schools will be given preference.
“I’m very pleased with the response so far,” said Lisa Hernandez, principal of the school. “We’re going to be a very diverse school. In looking at the enrollment, we already have students from countries all over the world. I can’t wait to move in and get started.”