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Sánchez Elementary targeted for modernization

Monday, August 13, 2018 by Samantha Zern

On Thursday night, the Metz-Sánchez-Zavala Modernization Planning Team voted to recommend Sanchez Elementary School for modernization as part of the 2017 bond program. The bond called for a modernization project at one of three campuses, either the Metz, Sánchez or Zavala elementary school.

Over the past several months, a planning team made up of administrators, instructional staff and parents from all three schools, as well as a few community members and district officials, worked to determine which school would be the best site for the $25 million project. The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees will vote on the recommendation at its Sept. 24 meeting.

The school was chosen by a vote that weighed the space, facilities and operating costs, population and enrollment, neighborhood, and transportation for each campus. The planning team’s decision to recommend Sánchez Elementary was based on the high values they gave it for its space and enrollment projections. Zavala was determined to be the least viable for modernization, as its transportation restrictions and limited building space would prove difficult to substantially improve through construction.

The three schools are all located in AISD’s District 2, have similar enrollment levels and are all at around 60 percent utilization. Prior to the modernization project, each school will receive technology and safety upgrades, also as part of the 2017 bond package.

At the meeting, members of the DLR Group, an architectural firm with a focus in K-12 building design, presented potential modernization plans for each campus. The plans focused on redesigning school spaces to meet the district’s 2017 Educational Specifications for Modern Learning Environments, which are part of its long-term vision. All three schools are missing various spaces recommended in the ed specs guidelines, including areas for collaboration and small group work, community rooms, professional learning centers, and maker spaces.

“Within (the ed specs guidelines) there are certain choice points and certain things that every campus should have,” Raechel French, an associate at DLR Group, said. “Those things … consist of a whole new makeup of layouts, in terms of the types of studios and the sizes, the collaboration spaces, the professional learning center spaces, and the maker spaces and the small group rooms and how that all functions. That’s very much linked to the academic vision of Austin ISD, so that’s why it’s very important that all campuses with modernizing ability meet those standards.”

The Sánchez modernization building plan would renovate the school to include these kinds of spaces. The DLR Group also proposed adding more windows to provide more natural light in the building.

During the two years of construction on the modernizing campus, one of the other two schools will take on the students from the school under construction as the “swing school.” The goal is that the entire student body from the school under construction will fit in the swing school and the third campus will remain undisturbed.

With the decision of which school to be recommended made, the modernization project will now move into the second phase of development. Over the coming months, the planning team will work with the design team to identify which school, Zavala or Metz, will serve as the swing school and determine operations within that space. Students will begin occupying the swing school in the 2019-20 school year, with the goal of opening the modernized campus in August 2021.

Photo courtesy of AISD.

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