Community group considers new school 

Another series of proposals – including interior and exterior design – were debated Tuesday in a Bridge City community meeting concerning a proposed new elementary school for grades Pre-K through 2. 

The Hatton and Sims elementary campuses suffered the most damage among BCISD schools in Hurricane Ike.

On-hand, among others, were district Superintendent Jamey Harrison, school board member Jerry McInnis, educators Lara Richard and Kent Broussard, City Manager Jerry Jones, businesswoman Beverly Perry and architect Mark Magnuson, whose firm has been hired to design the building.
The district believes it will have enough funds, however, is still waiting on FEMA monies to cover damage at Hatton Elementary and possible enactment of a state Senate bill by the Legislature. The proposed new school would be built where Hatton stands now. 

Sims would be used for other district needs.

“This is not a blank slate,” Harrison said. “This is something that will give us a general idea.” 

He added that in Magnuson’s model, parking would be in the rear of the school, between the back of the campus and the intermediate school (to cut down on traffic near Roundbunch Road. 

Therefore, he said, it would be important to build the school south toward Hatton’s present playground area rather than west toward the field in front of the intermediate. 

Parent drivers will need to be kept separate from the bus areas, as well.

Magnuson’s model featured a stage shared by a common dining area and the gym, surrounded by kitchen, library, nursing, administrative and computer areas – all on the south side of the building if one views it from Roundbunch. 

A hallway separates the common areas from three wings of classrooms. Restrooms would be centrally located and all the classrooms would have windows.

Questions arose over bleachers versus none in the gym and the size of certain offices. Richard felt the counselors’ space should be larger and safety issues arose over bleachers. 

Some teachers felt, considering the age groups involved, bleachers were dangers because kids tend to play under them; or drop things that later have to be retrieved. 

“It’s really easier to line them up on the floor and count them off that way,” said Broussard, principal at Sims. Harrison suggested retractable bleachers, which will be needed regardless for school presentations. 

“There are a lot more parents there for our aged kids than beyond,” Broussard agreed.

Restroom locations – whether at the east and west ends of the campus, or in one central location – also met with some discussion.

Magnuson said it was more economical to “ … put them together.”

Outside design photo suggestions of the school’s front view – including one with a church-like dome and another with what was ridiculed as a “prison guard tower,” immediately met with resistance. 

Most of the group eventually decided on a design similar to the intermediate school’s front facade, except with rounded columns and a taller structure to house the main entrance.

Some still objected that the agreed-upon example wasn’t a good representation, because it had driveways in the front. At the new school they will be in back.

“This may not be where the kids go in, but it’s what the public will see,” McInnis said. Harrison said the front would need to have “curb appeal.”

Another possibility for the new school, Harrison said, taking a cue from Hurricane Ike, would be a generator on campus. Later officials would consider putting one in at the high school, he said.

Tuesday’s session should not be considered final by any means, he added.

“I just wanted everyone to take [these proposals] and run with [them] too far,” he said. “Today we’re dreaming.”