Architects aim for design by April: PNGISD selects firm to outline elementary construction

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, February 12, 2020

GROVES — Port Neches-Groves Independent School District selected VLK Architects to begin designing the elementary 3-5 campuses as part of the 2019 Bond Program.

The board of trustees approved the contract with the Texas-based firm at this week’s board meeting at the West Groves Education Center.

Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier said VLK stood out amongst the other four candidate interviews by experience, understanding and vision.

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“(VLK) had some great ideas for our pieces of property,” she said. “They understand our goals here at PNGISD and the type of buildings we want for our community. They came out on top and we are excited to be working with them.”

VLK Architects has earned numerous recognitions for its work with public schools, including placements in the latest rankings by Architectural Record, ENR and Building Design and Construction.

The firm designed the Allen ISD STEAM Center, a two-story arc shaped building that includes specialized spaces for engineering, robotics labs, math classroom, studios for architecture and interior design programs.

VLK also designed the Energy Institute High School, the newest magnet school in Houston ISD and the first “energy” school in the Nation.

CBRE Heery Project Manager Gary Whittle said he is happy to be welcoming VLK to the project and is working closely with the architects to begin the educational planning portion of the process.

“The biggest step right now is sitting down with the district to try and identify the most important components of an educational building, such as placement of restrooms, libraries and classrooms to start piecing that all together,” he said. “We already have a budget established and space established. It’s just about putting it all together.”

PNG passed the $130 million bond in November, condensing the seven elementary campus layout down to four.

Whittle said approximately $24 million of the budget goes to construction. VLK Architects will receive between 4-6 percent of the construction budget depending on the need for modification of existing plans.

“VLK will have an educational planner come in, someone who is not an architect but a former educator, to asses how an average day at PNG goes, and we go from there,” he said. “The first step is looking at the educational process and standards of the district.

“We don’t want to design a school that is not for PNG, so that’s where we want to start. Right now, we are on target with the budget we presented and the timeline presented so everything is on schedule.”

Gauthier said now that an architect has been selected, designs will begin with a kickoff meeting Feb. 19.

The next several design and planning meetings will only be open to teachers, staff, administration and board members.

“It’s going to get very busy around here,” Gauthier said. “We have to first start with the numbers we are looking at, what rooms we are looking at, etc. CBRE Heery and VLK will work with our administrative teams, maintenance, transportation, teachers, staff, etc. before we start branching out to others.”

The district is hoping to present a rough draft of the conceptual and schematic designs to the community during the April board meeting.

Construction is still scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

Gauthier said everyone is excited to finally be in the “getting to work stage.”

“I don’t even think it has hit us on how we are finally beginning to design these four schools,” Gauthier said. “We are just so excited to be taking the next step to build these campuses for our community.”