Jones Academy addition

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The new addition at Jones Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language did more than just add space. It also added more opportunities, better experiences and improved safety.

The 16,840 square-foot addition, which opened at the end of 2019, includes 10 classrooms and a new gymnasium. The project also added a fire lane around the entire building, creating a loop from parking lot to parking lot.

The campus underwent major renovations in 2016 and 2017, funded by the 2014 Bond, to convert what had been Roquemore Elementary into the new Jones Academy. The building was completely overhauled to ensure that the instructional spaces match the new fine arts and dual language programming and include state-of-the-art spaces like a strings room, piano lab, drama space, a dance studio, STEM labs and collaboration areas.

But the new Jones, which soon proved to be a popular program, ran into one problem.

Space. There simply weren’t enough classrooms. And the tiny gym was really only a multipurpose room, too small to handle most athletic activities.

The school had to use portable buildings outside for classrooms, classrooms that lacked the same warm learning environment that had been carefully designed for inside the building. And the portables eliminated the opportunity to collaborate with other students and classes inside the building.

Not only were some classes outside in portables, but the space inside was also tight. The school was forced to use the choir room and STEM labs for regular classrooms, and strings classes went wherever space was available.

The AISD didn’t wait long to fix the problem though. The same architect and construction manager that designed and completed the building’s renovations just a couple years earlier, Stantec and Joeris Construction, were hired to design and build an addition. By the fall of 2018, construction was underway.

“I appreciate that the district saw the need,” Jones Principal Katiuska Herrador said. “The district understands that facilities need to match the instructional programming.”

Now open, the new classrooms, gym and driveway loop have made an immediate impact.

The ten new classrooms house fourth-through-sixth grades and provide a much-improved learning experience. With natural light and high ceilings, the rooms feel spacious and modern. The new furniture was strategically selected for its flexibility and can be arranged in various patterns that allow for individual work or peer projects. The classrooms also offer easy access to Jones’ collaboration areas now that they are in the building.

Adjacent to the new wing of classrooms, the new 4,800 square-foot gymnasium is a game-changer.

“The gym has opened up more experiences for our kids,” Herrador said.

When Herrador first told Jones PE teacher Allison Laws that they were getting a new gym, she couldn’t believe it.

“My initial thought was ‘Seriously?’” Laws said. “This is almost too unrealistic.”

But now it’s reality. Students can play basketball, volleyball and other games, and they can really work on skills that the old gym couldn’t accommodate.

“I have now been in our new gym for close to a month and it has exceeded my expectations in every way. It is exceptionally well built with amazing attention to detail, convenience and safety. It’s amazing!” Laws said.

The gym has also proved useful on rainy days during dismissal. Students gather in the gym to take shelter from the rain until it’s their turn to get picked up.

The gym is also an added safety feature. Built as a storm shelter, it can hold 800 people and has its own generator in case a storm knocks out power.

“We have been able to test the storm shelter during a mock severe weather drill and we all fit with extra space,” Laws said. “We can hang out in there during severe weather and use the amazing sound system and projector.”

Finally, during the addition construction, a fire lane was added around the building, along with areas for parents to drop off and pick up students. The loop has made drop off and pick up smoother and, more importantly, safer. It keeps students on campus, away from the street.

Now that the addition is open, the evolution of the old Roquemore Elementary building into a state-of-the-art fine arts and dual language academy is complete. The facilities now all match the unique programming and function in concert to provide students an innovative educational experience.

“We are overjoyed that the construction has completed and all our students can enjoy the new spaces,” Herrador said. “We are blessed to have a beautiful building that brings learning to life.”

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