HISD Bellaire and Lamar school renovation plans move forward

The process to reconstruct Lamar and Bellaire high schools with proceeds from the Houston Public School District’s 2012 Bond Issue is proceeding smoothly.

“Plans are currently on schedule,” HISD Spokesperson Sheleah Reed wrote in an e-mail to Thesis on April 17.

Project Advisory Teams (PATs), made up of students, parents, community members, school staff and architects, are developing early plans for each of the schools.

Lamar Principal James McSwain wrote in an e-mail that he was trying to work with all stakeholders

“We have already involved PTO and Alumni organizations” in addition to other groups on the PAT, he said.  As we get further along, there will be more opportunity for input.”

Notes on each of the bond projects, including the reports of each of the meetings of school PAT are available on HISD’s Web site. Reed suggested that anyone with questions or who wanted to get involved contact the principal at their school of interest for more information.

Currently, notes are available for two PAT meetings each at Bellaire and Lamar. Both schools are attempting to make use of limited space while planning to house somewhere between 2,800 and 3,500 students.

“We have to be smart about space. We have lots of facilities to build on a small amount of land” McSwain wrote.

He added that the challenge was to anticipate changes in education in the near future while making the space flexible, rather than just to building an exact copy of what the school currently has.

The Project Action Team notes from Bellaire note a particular need to combine science classrooms with science labs, which are currently separated.

McSwain also noted that he and others have been touring and examining other businesses and schools for insight on how to effectively use space.  He said that his team has specifically studied the Kansas City Public Schools Career Center, as well as offices for Google –San Jose, Exxon Mobil and the International Baccalaureate’s World Offices to get some ideas.

Sheed said that both Bellaire and Lamar’s new campuses will incorporate advances in energy efficiency and be more environmentally friendly, in line with HISD’s policy of making each of its new campuses LEED certified.

Lamar will reconstruct its campus while retaining as much of its distinctive 1935 Art-Deco style original building as possible, a fact that pleased at least one alumnus.

“I am glad the original building will stay” Katie Onisiphorou, a parent of both a sophomore and an incoming student at Lamar, wrote in an April 17 e-mail.

Onisiphorou, who also graduated from Lamar, indicated that she hoped the reconstructed school would have a brighter, more open atmosphere.

Construction will start on both schools in the fall semester of 2015.  Reed said that each school would coordinate construction activities through its PAT to minimize disruption for students and school staff during construction.

McSwain indicated that Lamar currently does not plan to use temporary classrooms during construction and will be able to keep dislocation to a minimum. “We will build around what we already have in phases,” he wrote.  “We will be able to remain in old spaces and then move into some new spaces incrementally.”

Both schools obtained funds for rebuilding when Houston voters approved a $1.89 billion bond proposal for capital improvements in November 2012. Lamar will receive $107.9 million in funding to build a new school, while the bond issue earmarked $106.7 million for its own school.

PBK Architects have been hired for the Bellaire project, while Perkins-Will leading the Lamar reconstruction.

Bellaire and Lamar are two of the 20 high schools that will be reconstructed under the terms of the proposal. Other notable schools include the High School for Visual and Performing Arts and the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions.


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