Updated: Set to open in August 2019, the San Marcos CISD broke ground on the new 90,000-square-foot Rodriguez Elementary School July 23.

San Marcos CISD’s newest elementary school will feature glass elements, courtyards, an outdoor community space and a two-level media center once complete at 1481 Esplanade Parkway, off Posey Road.

“The school is designed around the needs of the kids, how kids move and how they work as 21st century learners,” said Cardona.

Among the features being built by Perkins+Will, an Austin office of architecture and design firm, are specially designed learning pods aimed to serve as co-teaching spaces with small group breakout areas that connect to the classrooms and provide high-performing acoustical environments to foster the sound recognition necessary for language development.

These classroom learning pods and common spaces open to outdoor learning spaces in the form of split-level learning courtyards that incorporate science and robotics curriculum, serve as a space to hold art classes and allow for deeper connections with an outdoor presentation area. Connecting the courtyards in the heart of the school will be a dual-level media center.

As part of a voter approved 2017 bond program, total construction cost for the new school is expected to be around $26.2 million, according to San Marcos CISD. The project is currently tracking to come in under its $30 million budget and on schedule.

Original: San Marcos CISD’s newest elementary school will feature glass elements, courtyards, an outdoor community space and a two-level media center once complete.

The SMCISD board of trustees approved the schematic design of the new  90,000-square-foot elementary school by a vote of 6-0—with board President Clementine Cantu absent—on Monday night after hearing a presentation from Perkins+Will, the architecture firm behind the project.

The firm found during six stakeholder meetings that smaller learning spaces for small group collaboration, large and small courtyards and a tie to the Trace community—where the school will be located off Posey Road—were desired.

The school, which will be funded using $30 million from the district’s $107.3 million bond approved by voters in May, features a big glass façade in front of a large green area facing a roundabout. Parents will drop students off in front of the school, and buses will drop students off to the left of the front door facing the green space.

The cafeteria, gymnasium and administrative offices will be located in the front of the school with classrooms and private spaces located in the back of the school.

The bulk of the library and media center will be on the main level with breakout spaces, a circulation desk, the librarian’s office and bookshelves. The lower level will contain flexible meeting space, movable furniture and a robotics area. This area, known as the hub of the school because it will be located in the center of the building will also feature a large and small courtyard.

“This offers a lot of architectural ‘Ooh’ but really it came from a determination of cost,” said Koleman Uresti, one of the architects with Perkins+Will, as he showed trustees renderings of the main and lower level. “This was more of a monetary decision to come in and do this.”

There will be five sections of each grade level with smaller learning spaces, nooks, spaces for individual attention and privacy as well as glass walls that can be opened to create larger spaces.

Rather than having hallways with classrooms on either side, the grade sections will be broken into pods separated by team storage, support spaces and workrooms.

“We’re intentionally breaking that circulation pattern up,” Uresti said of the traditional ways classrooms are placed.

Several trustees had concerns about the amount of glass used in the façade, citing safety. As the school is laid out, visitors to the school can see straight into the gymnasium and cafeteria.

“It sounds beautiful, but it makes me nervous,” trustee Anne Halsey said.

Uresti said he could reduce the amount of glass and replace it with solid walls to reduce safety concerns. He said blinds and curtains could also be installed for use during testing and lockdowns.

Halsey and trustee Lupe Costilla also had concerns about the amount of traffic going through the library and media center. As it is designed, the school has a hallway running through that section of the building that connects the classrooms to the gymnasium and cafeteria.

Uresti said teachers could also take their students through the outdoor courtyard to get to the other side of the school.

“I dig it,” trustee John McGlothlin said prior to the vote. “I like the upper courtyard, I like the lower courtyard, it’s not just a box.”

Perkins+Will will bring trustees a cost estimate next month and then will begin work on design development.

This story has been updated to include design renderings of the elementary school.