Students at J.T. Brackenridge Elementary work on tablets as part of their daily curriculum.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Citizens Advisory Committee offers guidance as Bond 2016 program rolls along

Kedrick Wright, (standing) director of planning and construction, delivers a
presentation to members of the Citizens Advisory Committee. The group meets
every three months and offers feedback and guidance on the Bond 2016 program.
The community group charged with overseeing SAISD’s Bond 2016 program -- offering feedback and guidance on the projects -- got to see most of the designs for the Bond campuses during the committee’s regular meeting on Oct. 23.

Kedrick Wright, director of planning and construction, briefed the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) on the schematic designs and updated the group on the project scopes.

Kamal ElHabr, associate superintendent for facilities, quipped to the committee that a lot has happened since the group last met in July. For now, the group meets every three months. Updates include the program architects for each of the campuses finishing their designs and the SAISD Board of Trustees approving all but two of them. Bowden and Brackenridge, like the rest of the campuses, will hold a community meeting to provide parents, faculty, staff, and residents in the areas impacted by the projects the chance to see the plans and learn about the construction timeline.

The community offered feedback like the need for updated fine arts and athletic facilities. Here are some of the highlights from each of the meetings:

Bowden: a need for windows in classrooms;

Burbank: branding the campus as an IB World School;

Edison: fine arts and dance studio a priority;

Fox Tech: come up with a master plan for the campus, and consider the Bond 2016 project as phase one because there are three schools (Fox Tech, Advanced Learning Academy’s 4th-12th grades, and CAST Tech) within one campus site. Plans to move the food services to the first floor was also discussed as a priority;

Jefferson: seating in the secondary gym, and branding the campus as an IB World School;

Lanier: band practice pad a priority, and mural preservation;

Sam Houston: band practice pad;

Irving: the campus transformation into an academy impacts how the school will be used and therefore its design;

Rogers: construction of a brand new, three-story academic wing;

Tafolla: complete renovation of three-story classroom wing, administration offices, library and life skills room;

J.T. Brackenridge: redesign will include a new entry and secure vestibule;

Davis: complete overhaul of classroom windows for natural lighting.
As for the important murals at campuses like Burbank, Lanier and Sam Houston, there is an ongoing discussion of displaying and preserving the images. Members of the CAC highlighted a need to preserve the cultural legacies of the schools overall, noting that SAISD carries with it years of history that’s important to each of the communities and alumni of the schools.

They also want to make sure that the project managers and architects are working with campus leaders to think of important aspects of school life like student drop-off and pick-up.

District facilities personnel are not only managing Bond 2016, but are looking beyond the program through the SAISD Master Plan 2030, as well as how potential future bond projects could add to the progress accomplished through the current bond program.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Board approves schematic designs for 11 Bond projects

The schematic designs for 11 of the 13 Bond 2016 projects (see below) were approved by the San Antonio ISD Board of Trustees during their regular meeting on Oct. 15, 2018. The schematic designs for two additional Bond projects – Bowden Academy and Brackenridge High School – will be presented at a November Board meeting, after their broader communities have had an opportunity to provide input.

“It is exciting to be able to share with the community the creative designs for the 2016 Bond Program,” said Willie Burroughs, SAISD chief operations officer.

The purpose of a schematic design is to translate the project program into an initial set of drawings and a three-dimensional computer rendering, which illustrates the basic concepts of the site plan including floor plans, elevations, and scale. Schematic design also takes into consideration building systems such as HVAC and electrical, building services such as security and fire alarms, and technical requirements such as phone and data. The schematic drawings are reviewed and refined for functionality, usability, code compliance, security, safety and aesthetics.

Internal and external stakeholder feedback around the Bond 2016 projects is an integral part of the schematic design process. All projects are being presented, evaluated and commented on by multiple groups of stakeholders, from Community Advisory Committee members to Project Advisory Team members, from campus leadership meetings to community meetings, and more.

As a result of feedback, for example, branding that identifies Burbank and Jefferson high schools as International Baccalaureate World Schools will be visible on their buildings, the Fox Tech campus will develop a Master Plan that takes into account its three schools onsite, and existing murals will be incorporated into the designs at Brackenridge, Burbank, Sam Houston and Lanier high schools. Additional feedback has been incorporated as well.

“Our goal is to provide future-ready learning environments that extend beyond the classroom that are fresh, engaging, and flexible while also preserving the rich history of our District and schools,” Burroughs said.

The final schematic design is then produced and is used to estimate project square footage, total project budget, project schedule and occupancy dates.

With the Board approval of the schematic designs, the next step in the process is design development. This phase collects the results from the schematic designs and takes them one step further. Design development yields a more detailed site plan with full dimensions. This phase involves finalizing the design and specifying items such as materials and general structural details.

Once the District and architects are comfortable with the drawings produced from the design development phase, they move on to construction documents. And, of course, the final step is the actual construction process.

The Bond 2016 projects will begin their construction phases in either late 2018 or early 2019.

Some Bond projects, such as those for Bowden Academy and J. T. Brackenridge Elementary School are projected to have completion dates in 2019. Four additional schools are scheduled to be completed in 2020, and these are Davis, Irving and Rogers middle schools and Edison High School. The rest of the projects have estimated completion dates scheduled in 2021.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Behind the scenes of the Brackenridge HS project

Architects Ryan Bloom, Daniel Perez (seated) and Project Manager Suresh Modadugu
discuss Brackenridge High School's design during a recent meeting at Stantec Architecture.
I may have just helped the architects heading up Brackenridge High School’s Bond project with a structural design decision! More on that in a moment.

This week I spent a couple of hours with the folks at Stantec architecture, a global firm with roots in the United States, and even right here in San Antonio. Their motto, which is evident from the moment you walk into their north side office building, is ‘design with community in mind.’ After talking with the architects about their project at Brackenridge, it’s certainly true that they do keep the community at the top of mind in everything that they do.

Architect Ryan Bloom compares schematic design to
renderings of the atrium at Brackenridge HS.
I thought a behind-the-scenes look from the architects would be the perfect chance to get a sneak peek at one of the Bond 2016 projects, and that would also help us understand what’s going on across the rest of the dozen projects. This is an important time in creating the designs for what the schools will look like!

I met with one of the main architects working on Brackenridge’s redesign, Ryan Bloom. Let me tell you, he is extremely passionate about his job! He, along with Stantec’s San Antonio Office Principal Daniel Perez and Stantec Project Manager Suresh Modadugu, quite literally held a design session right in front of me. On this particular day, the architects were discussing the front entrance and side of the building facing Eagleland Dr. They say that this corner is so important because it’s the cornerstone of the neighborhood. Ryan feels that the corner of the building should celebrate the history of Brackenridge, going back to the school’s very beginnings in the early 20th century, as well as integrate with the community it’s in. Again, there’s that sense of community.

Principal Daniel Perez, left, and architect Ryan Bloom, discuss design
plans for Brackenridge HS.
The team says the most enjoyable part of this project at Brackenridge is the fact that SAISD is allowing them to explore the true look and feel of 21st century learning. Whereas other districts in the area might be set on a certain style that works for them, Daniel says what’s great about SAISD’s philosophy is that the District isn’t afraid to push the envelope. One example of this is what’s called a learning staircase. If you’re familiar with Brackenridge, or even if you’re not, the large atrium where students eat lunch or gather for pep rallies features a staircase leading to the second floor. One of Stantec's ideas may be to replace the traditional staircase and install a learning staircase. This new method of learning is where students can sit, walk to the next level, gather in an auditorium-like setting for lectures or presentations, or hold classes.

A view of the Stantec offices in north central San Antonio.
But there are challenges, too. According to the team, one such challenge is how to lay out new spaces that are attached to existing buildings. Brackenridge will basically be gutted, but the buildings will remain. Even though the architects described this as one of the challenges, I got the feeling that it’s fun for them to be creative and strategic in their designs.

Now back to that design decision. Ryan and the team debated between a solid wall or an open space at the end of the main building at the front of the school. They joked that two architects, let alone three, never agree. Ryan couldn’t decide between which style he liked best, but felt the open design fit better. They asked me what I thought, and I agreed. This was an exciting moment! Soon, the community will have the same chance to be a part of the design process such as this during community meetings to gain feedback from the public. These meetings will take place after the start of school in August. Suresh brought home the philosophical point: design is a feel; architecture is explaining why we feel that way.

An assortment of tapestries and materials being considered
as part of the design for Brackenridge HS.
Brackenridge will be getting major upgrades to its mechanical systems, along with new piping, plumbing and electrical systems. The architects say this will add many more years of longevity in the buildings. A lot of facade work will be done, natural lighting features will be added, and what’s really impressive is the different tapestries and materials - from artwork on the outside of the buildings to carpets, furniture and wall elements - that will be featured to match the vibrancy of San Antonio and the Southtown community where Brackenridge is located.

You might be wondering about the timeframe for all of this. After deciding the programming, which is all the different kinds of classes, clubs and other academic or extracurricular offerings the school provides, the architects then come up with the schematic design. This part of the design is what looks to me like a bunch of blocks. The architects will then send the design to the contractor to see if the design might fall in line with the budget of the project (even though many times the architects themselves have a pretty good idea of the cost). When it comes back to the architects, the phase called design development - which is where we are right now with Brackenridge - takes place. This is where the original design is refined, modified and the look continues to get updates.

A photo of Brackenridge HS from 1919. Stantec architects want to
celebrate this vision of Brackenridge HS with modern designs for
21st century learning.
The last bit of information I’ll give you, which I think is pretty important, is that the architects will have to meet with the city’s Historic Design Review Commission (HDRC). That’ll happen sometime in August. The reason for this is so that the HDRC can review the design to see how well it fits into the community. Brackenridge falls right on the cusp of the King William Historic District in what’s called the River Overlay District. As you may know, Brackenridge is the only high school in the city that’s located along the San Antonio River. The school itself is not classified as historic, but the city-based committee still requires getting a glance at the project. As the architects mentioned, it’s important to fit into the community. But, it’s also pertinent to make the school look current and modern in an era where technology is booming.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Meet the project managers behind SAISD’s Bond 2016 program

Sometimes the process of huge projects like SAISD’s Bond 2016 program can feel a bit like “The Wizard of Oz.” There’s something happening, but who indeed is behind the curtain?

I wanted to take the time to introduce you to the project managers literally running the show under the guidance of Kedrick Wright, director of planning and construction. They have a wealth of experience - some who even have backgrounds on the architecture firm side of things - and some who have been this kind of project management for many, many years.

The Bond 2016 project managers and their projects include:

Abigail Grass: Jefferson High School, Fox Tech High School, Irving Dual Language Academy
David Olguin: J.T. Brackenridge Elementary, Edison High School, Rogers Middle
Art Najera: Tafolla Middle School, Burbank High School, Lanier High School
Yamel Natividad: Bowden Academy
Terry Salli: Brackenridge High School, Sam Houston High School, Davis Middle School

Bond projects are obviously really big tasks, and completing them is done in a number of ways. I asked Kamal ElHabr, associate superintendent of facilities at SAISD, how past bond projects worked.

He told me that programs back in 1997 and 2001 were internally managed, using project managers and other support staff. At the time, he said SAISD also augmented staff with consultants or extended architectural services to support the staff. In Bond 2010, SAISD internally managed $100 million of the total $415 million program.

For this current Bond project, ElHabr says SAISD elected to manage the program internally so that it provides SAISD maximum control and cost efficiency.

“SAISD has truly embraced an innovation culture in many of its operations,” ElHabr said. “We are developing and renovating facilities to meet the demands of new programs where ideas are continuously evolving to meet the needs of our students. Managing construction projects to embrace ongoing change is challenging. Contracted program management services would demand additional fees with every change. There is more flexibility and cost control when the project managers are SAISD employees.”

Project Manager David Olguin, who has been with the District for 13 years, is overseeing projects at J.T. Brackenridge Elementary, Edison High School, and Rogers Middle School. When I asked him about what makes some of his projects unique, he pointed out Rogers.

“Rogers has a very interesting design because the auditorium is located on the 2nd floor of the building, which is rare.”

Each of the projects has its own unique needs, and the campus community is providing input on the projects through Project Advisory Team meetings. Soon, the community will also weigh in on the projects once the Community Meetings begin.

One of the projects Abigail Grass is managing is the historic Jefferson High School. She says the structural work under the building will be a great construction accomplishment taking into account the building’s historical significance. Grass, a former Career and Technical education teacher, also says another one of her projects - Irving Middle School - is very important because it is transitioning from a middle school to a PreK-8th grade academy in the 2018-2019 school year.

“I support the work that students, teachers, staff and administration are doing by planning for and solving problems within their educational environment, while trying to be efficient with taxpayer dollars,” Grass said.

The project managers are bringing to the table institutional knowledge and experience, which is valuable to advocating for students in a new era of learning.

Olguin takes his job seriously. He believes that 21st century learning is about combining the right learning spaces with the latest technology.

“By having this opportunity to manage the design of the projects and give students the best buildings possible is exciting for construction services and important for me personally,” Olguin said.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How pieces of the Bond 2016 puzzle will fall into place

You know those 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles? They are fun, but take time to put together! You could think of SAISD’s Bond 2016 like one of those big puzzles, only with a LOT more pieces and certainly a lot more people involved.

Now that the architects have been selected, and contractors assigned to their projects, the Bond program is getting very exciting. In fact, we can tell it’s getting exciting because a lot of conversations are happening about what the schools in SAISD’s Bond program will look like when they’re all done!

We are right in the middle of schools holding what’s being called Project Advisory Team meetings. These consist of a committee hand-selected by each school’s principal. Faculty and staff, community members, and in some cases, even students, are gathering to meet directly with the architects in charge of how their school will look.

Birds eye view of plans for Rogers MS
I had the chance to sit in on several so far. This part of the process, personally, is fascinating. The Project Advisory Team meeting at Rogers Middle School stuck out to me specifically as a really good example of how these conversations will shape the projects. Robyn Popa, a principal with Pfluger Architects, presented what’s called a Schematic Design to a team at Rogers recently. When I called the firm with questions about the schematic designs, a representative told me that it’s a pretty advanced view of the project because it includes details such as where walls will be placed (many will be torn down in the existing main building). During her meeting at Rogers, Popa talked about widening the center hallways, with existing non-load bearing walls coming down. The building will essentially be gutted to make room for 21st century classrooms, including science labs, that will give students a very modern approach to learning. It was during discussions like this where campus leaders -- people who use the buildings in real life -- talked about their thoughts and shared their own ideas.

A view of the new administration portion of Rogers MS
This perspective will directly impact what’s going to happen when the construction crews begin working!

So, visibility. Where we are in the timeline of events for this Bond 2016 program:

●     The ballot measure was approved
●     The selection of architects has been completed
●     Their contracts were signed
●     Plans and specifications are being developed
●     Contractors have been hired and assigned to work with the architects
●     Pre-construction services is beginning (working with design teams to ensure the projects are on time, on budget, and will minimize the impact to students)

What’s next? Soon, community meetings will begin to inform families and students of what’s going to happen in their schools! My office will be sharing meeting dates and times on our website and social media. Then not long after it will be time to bring on the bulldozers!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Architects and contractors all set

Here are the architects and contractors selected for Bond 2016:

Bowden Academy
Architect: VLK Architects
Contractor: Morganti/Casias

J.T. Brackenridge Elementary School
Architect: Chesney/Morales
Contractor: Morganti/Casias


Davis Middle School
Architect: Marmon Mok
Contractor: Joeris

Irving Middle School
Architect: O'Connell Robertson
Contractor: Bartlett Cocke

Rogers Middle School
Architect: Pfluger
Contractor: Galbane

Tafolla Middle School
Architect: Alamo Architects
Contractor: Gilbane


Brackenridge High School
Architect: Stantec Architecture
Contractor: Joeris

Burbank High School
Architect: Garza Bomberger & Associates
Contractor: Morganti/Casias

Edison High School
Architect: PBK
Contractor: Bartlett Cocke

Fox Tech High School
Architect: Munoz & Co.
Contractor: Bartlett Cocke

Jefferson High School
Architect: Perkins + Will
Contractor: Bartlett Cocke

Lanier High School
Architect: LPA, Inc.
Contractor: Gilbane

Sam Houston High School
Architect: KAI Texas
Contractor: Joeris

Friday, January 19, 2018

Community to be briefed on Bond 2016 projects

Miguel Fonseca, a first grade teacher at Twain Dual Language Academy, presents flash cards in Spanish to enrich the students' vocabulary
Architecture and design firms have been busy visiting each site that San Antonio ISD’s $450 million Bond program covers -- from Brackenridge High School to J.T. Brackenridge Elementary, and 11 schools in between. The complete 13-campus Bond program will include classroom renovations, sports facilities upgrades, infrastructure overhauls and other campus-specific work.

As the firms assess the facilities and develop a scope for the projects they’ll be building, SAISD facilities leaders, under the direction of Kamal ElHabr, associate superintendent for facilities, and Kedrick Wright, director of planning and construction, will begin gathering input from the public with a series of community meetings to kick off shortly. Families within the Bond program zones will be able to hear about the projects first-hand, as well as offer feedback to the firms. The meetings will be held at each of the Bond schools, and there will be several. Initially, the community meetings will help parents, students and school staff to understand what will be happening at their campus and to answer questions. In later meetings, the firms will discuss logistics of construction underway while school is in session.

Plans are already underway for some of the changes to one of the Bond-renovation schools, Irving Middle School, which is in the process of transitioning into a new dual language academy, opening in August for PK to 2nd graders (over time expanding to become a PK-8 academy).  First up in renovations are preparations to upgrade restrooms to accommodate the littlest learners, as well as add fencing and age-appropriate playground equipment and furniture. 

Planning for all the 13 schools will be discussed in the upcoming community meetings.  Once the meetings are arranged, SAISD will announce them via its website and social media channels. Additionally, the campuses will inform parents of the meeting dates and times.

Citizens Advisory Committee offers guidance as Bond 2016 program rolls along

Kedrick Wright, (standing) director of planning and construction, delivers a presentation to members of the Citizens Advisory Committee. T...