Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The New Pine Shadows and Summer Projects

When the new academic year in Spring Branch ISD begins on Monday, Aug. 27, thousands of students and staff will enter brand new or renovated campuses thanks to the bond plan approved by district voters just five years ago.

Another milestone moment in SBISD history will occur on that approaching Monday morning as more than 700 students enter the new, two-story Pine Shadows Elementary School, located at 9900 Neuens.

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With the addition of this new elementary, SBISD has now rebuilt nine of 13 planned elementary schools under the $597.1 million Bond Plan. This ambitious rebuilding and renovation program was approved by district voters in 2007.

The new Pine Shadows, built around the idea of the natural environment, is stunning visually with its raised entry tower, a curvy front fa├žade, open and expansive student library with winding access stairway, and floor-to-ceiling windowed, two-story inner atriums.

“Every time that I walk inside, I see something new,” Principal Alexia Greiner says. “And I get all misty-eyed. Just last week, I walked into the new building and I saw that the two words “Imagine” and “Explore” had been added. It hit me that the reaction to our new school on the first day will be ‘Wow!’ That’s how it hits me.”

The new Pine Shadows Elementary was rebuilt on the site of the old school, which had faulty air conditioning and other age-related facility issues. The new, two-story educational building of 118,000 square feet was built to house up to 800 students.

Designed to be both a child- and community-friendly space, the large, open building has four child-friendly areas, or habitats – ocean, rainforest, mountains and sky. At the classroom level, wildlife ranging from ocean whales to bears can be found on pixilated glass images placed near class doorways.

The library, cafeteria and other new spaces can be easily configured to provide community or after-school meeting spaces. Outdoors, a walking trail has been created and a new SPARK Park will soon be built. Site landscaping will occur early this fall.

The new school opening caps more than a year of preliminary design work and construction. For the past year, Pine Shadows students and staff were housed at the old Westwood Elementary School transition site.
“We anticipate a renewed sense of pride, and we are thinking that the people in the Pine Shadows community will see this wonderful new school building as the hub of the neighborhood and community,” Assistant Principal Aida Interiano says.

An Open House celebration with a ribbon cutting is planned at the new Pine Shadows Elementary School at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The public is invited. Tours of the new school will be provided for event visitors.

In addition to Pine Shadows Elementary, construction has been completed on the district’s new Technology Training Center, which is located adjacent to Meadow Wood Elementary and Spring Forest Middle schools, on Memorial Drive.

The former site of the Kendall Public Library, the Technology Training Center now houses four administrative offices and has been renovated to provide a state-of-the-art learning center for up to 120 SBISD teachers or other employees. The new center opened in July.

Construction is also under way on Housman Elementary School, 6705 Housman. This two-story elementary school – the district’s 10th new elementary – will be finished later this fall. Classes are scheduled to begin there by January 2013. Also under construction is Frostwood Elementary School, which is scheduled to be completed and re-open by or before January 2014.

In the design phase are two remaining new elementary schools, Valley Oaks and Rummel Creek. In many cases, SBISD’s new elementary schools have opened ahead of schedule and on budget or under budget. Rummel Creel Elementary was added to the rebuilding plan due to such cost savings.

Voter approval of the 2007 Bond Plan, SBISD’s biggest bond program ever, followed months of work by a 65-member Bond Advisory Committee that reviewed present and future facility needs. The group included members of the business community, retirees, educators and other district residents. In addition, work by three other committees proposed Five-Year Educational, Technology Plan and Long-Range Facilities plans.

SBISD has been able to accelerate its building timeline because of historically low bond interest rates and lower than estimated project bids, especially in the bond program’s initial years of construction.

By state law, bond funds must be applied to school construction, systems upgrades or other permitted purposes. These funds cannot be used to meet operating budget shortfalls, such as occurred when the Texas Legislature two years ago reduced funding to schools by more than $4 billion due to the state’s deficit and funding crisis.


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