Evolving a Campus

A year after negotiations wrapped between the Alcuin School and concerned neighboring residents about the school’s zoning request, construction plans are finally in the works. And neighbors are responding favorably to the upcoming additions.

Per the campus master plan, a new $5 million world language and fine arts building will be constructed as part of the south wing extension. The plan also includes a new $22 million upper school building, which would contain a performance hall and offices. The creek that runs right through the campus will also be renovated to become an interactive learning area for students.

“We’re growing,” Alcuin School Chief Financial Officer Lochwood Larson said. “We can handle everything until the end of next school year. It’s imperative that we add space.”

According to Head of School Walter Sorenson, the school has raised $6 million in funds, and the board intends to move ahead with construction of the world language and fine arts building first. It will include music and language classrooms, art learning spaces, and a gallery space for students to display their work.

The design for both of the new facilities will blend the style of current buildings, while making it flow with its surroundings, Larson said. “It is important to both the Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs that we are conscious of and wanting to blend in with the environment and nature,” he said. “We didn’t want buildings that stuck out like a sore thumb.”

Alcuin decided in 2013 to start offering high school instruction, with plans for the class of 2018 to be its first graduating class. The zoning for the new upper school building will allow up to 180 students in the ninth through 12th grades.

Larson said, even with the expansion of upper school enrollment, student parking would not be an issue.

According to the Alcuin Agreement dated April 8, 2015 with Brittany Circle, a neighboring block, “The School shall only issue 70 student parking stickers for student drivers each school year … ”

Read about the 2009 issues between Alcuin and its neighbors and the 2015 zoning request here.

Issues with construction and expansion were a major part of the discussion between Alcuin School and the Brittany Circle Neighborhood Association, now a part of the Hillcrest Forest Neighborhood Association, and the Parc du Lac Property Corporation.

“During our negotiations with Alcuin regarding their rezoning request last year, our neighborhood asked for a number of commitments to help mitigate potential problems related to construction. Alcuin said that they would do their best to be a good neighbor,” said HFNA president Bruce Wilke.

As part of the negotiations, Alcuin made a gift of $1 million to the surrounding neighborhoods for a 10­-year patrol service.
“There were so many neighbors upset with Alcuin with this expansion … now you can see how we’re going to tolerate traffic and activity because they gave us a great gift,” said Garrett Sherman, who lives across the street from the school.

According to Sorenson, the relationship between the school and the neighborhood has changed drastically since the negotiations. In 2009, Preston Hollow People reported on the school’s decision to uproot a grove of trees, upsetting neighbors in the process.

“We’ve seen a history of Alcuin not keeping their word on things. The neighbors wouldn’t trust them based on the past,” he said. “Now, we’re one big happy neighborhood.”

The school plans to break ground on the newest addition in May or June, with completion expected around April or May 2017, Sorenson said.

“I’m sure that there will be some inconvenience due to construction … but the good news is that it’ll be temporary,” Wilke said. “We just have to get through it.”

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