Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary isn’t like most primary schools in the United States: located in Fort Worth, TX, the building is actually underground, leaving only cars, a community garden and playground equipment visible at its street-level doorway. Unfortunately, ever since the school was built in the early 1980s, it has suffered numerous maintenance problems, including leaks, floods and a crumbling roof.
Currently, around 349 elementary school students attend classes every day underneath a giant slab of concrete on the the east side of Fort Worth. Problems with traditional roofs can often be identified by cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing and worn areas around chimneys, pipes, and skylights, and this concrete cover is surprisingly no different: the sealant is cracking in places, leaving the roof open to water damage. Over the years, this has caused heavy water stains to form on some of the walls. Large towels are now rolled up against the walls to soak up the water that comes in when it rains.
“I remember the parents and teachers would call every time it rained because water would come in inside the classroom and they would have to mop before they started school,” board member Christene Moss told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Fortunately, Van Zandt recently received some good news: the district plans to spend almost $10 million on upgrades and improvements on the building, including a two-story, wraparound addition with 14 classrooms.The renovations will be funded with a $490 million capital improvement program approved by voters in 2012.
This change comes in light of the district’s decision to send more than 200 additional students to Van Zandt from I.M. Terrell Elementary School in Fall 2016. Terrell will instead serve as the site of two academies: the Visual and Performing Arts Center and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy. Meanwhile, Van Zandt will receive an additional 28,000 square feet, creating room for a total capacity of 650 students.
The school will also receive classrooms dedicated to music, art and special education, as well as windows cut into the concrete panels to help the building access natural light. Other changes to the building’s exterior will include a dedicated entrance, walkway and potentially a rooftop garden. District residents were assured that advances in roof technology would be used to prevent further water damage and other problems.
The project is being designed by Perkins Will, a Dallas-based architecture and design firm.