At Humble ISD's May 11 school board meeting, PBK Architects presented the board with preliminary architectural renderings of the North Belt Elementary School rebuild and the new detention basin at the Humble High School complex.

A play-based learning design

The district was able to add North Belt Elementary's rebuild to the district's $575 million bond referendum from 2018 due to unanticipated savings from under-budget bond projects.

North Belt Elementary is located at 8105 North Belt Drive in Humble on 10.7 acres; the new $38 million school will be on 27 acres at the southeast corner of Old Humble and Bender roads.

PBK Senior Project Manager Jeff Chapman said his team focused on retaining most of the trees, creating a winding driveway and designing forest-like features for the building, such as a green roof and stone accents. The campus will also include a virtual learning academy, where teachers can film educational programming for in-person and virtual learning.

"What we really wanted to achieve by this look is to really embrace where this property is," Chapman said.

Additionally, North Belt Elementary will be one of the district's first elementary schools being rebuilt to showcase a play-based learning design, which includes interactive pods with different themes such as rain forest, marine life and the moon. HISD officials have said they believe this play-based design coupled with natural lighting will lead to higher student engagement.

Trustee Keith Lapeze said it would be interesting to measure if the new building is going to have an effect on North Belt Elementary's student populations, as the students will be moving from one campus to another.

"We'll see old North Belt with this old rickety building—that we all know was this close to being in the last bond—to this just amazing facility," he said. "I'd love to see the effect of that, and if there is a measurable effect, then that's a game changer."

Centennial Elementary School, which opened in August, was also built with a similar design style. Here, Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said discipline data is "basically nonexistent." Fagen said the district should be able to measure the affect of the designs on engagement and attendance.

"I think we're going to see engagement; I think we're going to see attendance; I think we're going to see improved scores in all arenas," she said.

However, Lapeze said since Centennial Elementary opened in August with its first student group, the campus does not offer comparable data to the effect play-based learning environments can have on student engagement.

Lakeland Elementary School, however, is also being rebuilt with the play-based learning and is set to open in August. Lakeland and North Belt elementaries could be good places to study this, Lapeze said.

"I think that could be valid data on which we can judge the environmental effect on learning," he said.

Detention basin upgrade in Humble

Meanwhile, PBK Architects also presented an option for the detention basin that will be located at the corner of Rustic Timbers Drive and Will Clayton Parkway in Humble.

The basin will service all four schools at the intersection, including Humble High School, the incoming $8.98 million Guy M. Sconzo Early College High School, Humble Middle School and Lakeland Elementary School.

Rather than have it be a dirt-bottom basin, district officials said they wanted to look at turning it into a wet-bottom detention basin. This means it would largely appear to be a pond with features such as fountains, lights that can be changed to coordinate with different campus colors, a corner plaza to replace the current marque for Turner Stadium and a pedestrian walkway surrounding the pond.

Trustee Robert Sitton said the retention pond could also be utilized in creative educational ways.

“What we’ve been looking at in [the] building and planning [committee], for instance, is ... turning this into a lot of outdoor learning space, potentially the pond could become a fish hatchery for our ag departments,” Sutton said.

To turn the basin into a wet-bottom basin with aesthetic features, district officials said it would cost an additional $2.2 million. In a phone interview after the meeting, Nolan Correa, HISD's associate superintendent of operational support services, said the funding could come from multiple places, including from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, as well as partnerships with the city of Humble or Harris County Precinct 4.

"We just know it would be a wonderful facility for the community and the city of Humble," he said. "So at this point, we're just going to pursue all those avenues to see where we could get the funding to provide that wonderful space."