New Campuses To Blend In Old Elements

Neely Thrash looks through a binder of Hyer Elementary monuments. (Photo: Bianca R. Montes)

Flipping through pages of a thick black binder, Neely Thrash browsed hundreds of photographs representing decades of Hyer Elementary School history.

There’s the pavers honoring families who gave money for a new playground; the memorials that pay homage to former students and teachers; and, of course, the traditional red brick and pitched roof that seamlessly blend the school into its residential neighborhood.

Thrash and others don’t want to see such elements lost as elementary school buildings are torn down and rebuilt in Highland Park ISD.

“We want to make sure that Hyer stays Hyer,” Thrash said.

Formed by the district, legacy committees comprised of current and former teachers, faculty, PTA members, and students have spent months walking the halls of their respective campuses, chronicling items they’d like to see retained at the new campuses.

Their overall goal is to make sure the architects embrace unique elements of each school.

For Bradfield Elementary, it’s the single entrance that parents and students gather in front of — the entrance where the principal stands every morning, giving each student a high-five on their way in.

For University Park Elementary, it’s the facade of the building.

Legacy committees are working with school architects to help preserve the history.

Jon Dahlander, HPISD director of communications, said committee members were selected because of their interest in preserving the spirit of the schools.

“Not only have they been talking about which benches need to be kept, which trees need to be preserved, they’ve also been instrumental in providing feedback to the architects, saying, ‘Here are certain elements that we want to see carried forward with the next building,’” he said.

For example, architects were able to lift the stone from the front facade of UP Elementary and are incorporating it into the design of the new building.

The Bradfield Elementary Legacy Committee is working with architects to emulate the feel of the front plaza in the new design.

Claire Baker, Bradfield PTA president, described the space as a community builder.

“It just means everyone is walking in through the same direction and relationships are being built,” she said.

Rennee Lockey, a UP Elementary parent and committee member, said serving on the legacy committee has come with a lot of pressure because “this community is steeped in such wonderful, rich traditions.”

When a former UP student walks the halls of the new school, they’ll see memories photographed and framed, display cases filled with trophies, and school colors joyfully painted on the walls, she said.

However, what’s gained with the rebuild — space — makes it a little easier to pack away a few trinkets, Lockey said.

After all, the trinkets aren’t what resonate, she added. “It’s the memories that you have, and those will never go away.”

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