Community Delivers Input on the Future Design of Arlington ISD’s Berry Elementary
Students, parents and teachers recently helped architects kickstart the design process for the future Berry Elementary School. They met with architects and Arlington ISD administrators via Zoom to discuss their desires for the new building.
Berry Elementary opened in 1955, and the nearly 65-year-old building has reached a point where it needs to be replaced. The 2019 Bond, approved by voters last November, is providing the funds to demolish the current building and replace it with a new school on the same site.
To begin, the architect, HKS, hosted a series of five design charrettes with Arlington ISD staff, students and parents. The intent of the interactive, conversational meetings was to set the vision for the new campus. The meetings are part of a pre-design phase that is developing the concept and model for the school which the architects will then infuse into the schematic design.
Designer Buildings for Deserving Students
The entire east Arlington area will be rezoned, including Berry, Blanton, Crow, Johns, Knox, Rankin, Roark and Thornton elementary schools. Roark and Knox will permanently close while Berry and Thornton will be razed and rebuilt. Berry will receive much of Roark’s student population so merging the two student bodies and cultures is an important dynamic.
Staff, students and parents from Berry and Roark joined the charrettes to help architects understand how to bring the best of both together. Students, teachers and parents have met in three separate groups to give their best ideas for the future design.
As Dr. Steven Wurtz, Arlington ISD chief academic officer, told the students that their input will have a lasting impact.
“W build a school to last 50 years. One day your grandkids could go to this school and you can tell them that you helped design what it looks like,” Wurtz said.
Building in a Little Fun, Too
Students got to talk about what they like at Berry and Roark and what their dream school would look like. One girl’s request for a zip line might not make it in the new school, but her suggestions about the importance for a school to feel fun resonated with the architects.
Teachers echoed some of the student’s thoughts about the value of outdoor spaces. They also touched on many other topics like collaboration spaces, the never-ending need for storage, walls to hang student work on, windows, floorplans, school culture and much more.
The parents talked about the culture and history of the schools as well. One mother who attended Berry herself wants to see Berry maintain its history but become even better for her children who now attend. Parents also talked about parking, security, drop-off/pickup, natural light in the school and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Seeing the Future
When asked what they envision for Berry in 10 years, one parent commented, “I would love for Berry to be known as a school where there are top-notch academics, including STEM-focused activities and events, and a focus on fine arts and sports.”
That vision is on track to become a reality thanks to the input and advice from students, parents, and teachers, paired with a dedicated team of architects and Arlington ISD administrators.
“I know for a fact that this building will be awesome,” said Kelly Horn, Arlington ISD executive director of Facility Services, at the charrette with teachers. “I know that we’ve got the right design team, and we’ve had the right kind of input from you and students and parents.”
Now that the charettes are complete, the design phase will begin. The design phase takes about one year followed by approximately 16 months of construction. The new Berry will open for the 2023-2024 school year.
Berry is one of three elementary schools that will be replaced thanks to voters in the 2019 Bond election. Webb Elementary and Thornton Elementary will also be torn down and rebuilt. Read about Webb’s third charrette and Thornton’s second charrette.