HISD Listened: New Plans for Bellaire High School
Architects for the new Bellaire High School went back to the drawing board, after HISD got the message that Bellaire residents and parents of students were very unhappy about two proposed designs for a new $106.7 million high school.
The architects from PBK presented four alternative site designs Tuesday, at a Project Advisory Team meeting at the high school. Members of the PAT, as well as many Bellaire residents, were pleased to hear that HISD officials have agreed to allow temporary buildings to be used during construction.
The temporary buildings will allow juniors and seniors to stay on the campus during a phased reconstruction process that will take up to four years. Under the new plans, freshmen students from Bellaire will attend classes at the Mandarin Chinese School, (the former Gordon Elementary) at Bissonnet and Avenue B. The Chinese Mandarin School is moving to a new building at West Alabama and McCulloch Circle, with construction to start later this year.
Bellaire sophomores will attend classes at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, or Debakey High School.
Construction of the new high school has been controversial in Bellaire, with many residents near the campus concerned about a proposed parking garage, a “flipped” campus that would put school buildings closer to residential neighborhoods, or an option that would have required all Bellaire students to attend other high schools during construction.
Bellaire Principal Michael McDonough said that “we are light years ahead of where we were” a month ago, when more than 400 Bellaire residents, parents of students and students attended a community meeting at the school to express their opposition to two site plans.
One of those plans would have “flipped” the campus, with the school buildings closer to the residential neighbors and the green fields on S. Rice.
The second plan, which would have kept the current configuration of the school, would have required all Bellaire students to attend other high schools.
A key part of the new site options was a decision by HISD to allow the use of temporary buildings during the reconstruction of the high school. Earlier, HISD officials said that Superintendent Terry Grier would not allow the use of T-buildings.
After input from the PAT, “near neighbors,” and the community meeting, Grier apparently changed his mind.
PBK Architects Richard Chi, Sam Savage and Melissa Turnbaugh presented the four alternative designs, which would keep the auditorium, administration, and classrooms on the S. Rice Avenue side of the 18-acre campus, with the practice football field and baseball field on the Ferris St. side of the school. That would keep the green fields closest to the residences across the street from the school.
The new site designs also included proposals to construct underground parking on the campus, to minimize the visual impact of a parking structure. In one option, the parking garage would be built under the football and baseball fields.
East of the Science building, which is not being rebuilt, the architects proposed a quadrangle of classrooms that would look out on an open-air “learning commons” that students could also use during the lunch periods at the high school.
Sue Robertson, general manager of facilities construction for HISD, stressed that the PAT had approved none of the four new plans.
Robertson said, “things are moving in a positive direction.”
Although the parking garage on the high school campus is still likely to be controversial, officials at Bellaire are currently conducting a “parking survey” to determine how many students drive to school, how many use an HISD or Metro bus, how many are “dropped off” by parents or others.
Until that survey is complete, Robertson stressed that Bellaire may not know the size of the new parking structure.
Robertson commended city of Bellaire officials, who responded favorably when the high school planners asked for “flexibility” in parking regulations.
She and McDonough plan to attended a community meeting Monday that is being held by the Bellaire City Council.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, September 29, at the Bellaire Civic Center, inside City Hall at 7008 S. Rice Ave. Bellaire City Manager Paul Hoffman told the council earlier in the week that plans are being made to “broadcast” the community meeting into the council chambers and the Senior Activity Room, in case there is an overflow crowd.
People who want to speak at the council’s community meeting will be asked to sign in, if they wish to speak. Each speaker will be limited to three minutes.