Tai Wai Decant Site
Following on from our teachers’ decant meeting held on 2 February 2015, several senior house and redevelopment office staff took the opportunity on Monday, 9 March to visit a designated school decant site in Tai Wai.
This site is an old Government School operating from one building spanning over 5 storeys for 1000 students. As parents are aware from previous information sessions, Island School was allocated two school decant sites in Tai Wai from the Hong Kong Education Bureau. If each school accommodates 600 students, we greatly envisage having more than enough space with adequate facilities to continue to deliver our broad based IB curriculum along with our Elements and Island Time programs. Although there are adequate classrooms, multi-purpose rooms, communal areas and whole school activity rooms, it must be accepted that with most old Government buildings, interior space is plentiful but outside facilities are rather limited. For instance, the site does not have an on-site swimming pool but it does have two outdoor sports courts. However, we are very fortunate to have an abundance of sporting and academic facilities within the locality of Tai Wai and surrounding New Territories. The school has been well maintained but does lack adequate modern furniture and equipment. We therefore plan to renovate and install the necessary equipment (ie science classrooms) to continue with our present curriculum.
Redevelopment of Borrett Road
On the same morning, over 44 members of the teaching staff visited 10 recently redeveloped/constructed international schools in Hong Kong to investigate and compare the schools’ overall design concepts and how those schools’ ethos and philosophies fitted into such designs. Our teachers focused particularly on the schools’ use of teaching space (flexible and independent learning), for whole school activities (assembly hall, performing arts), resources, acoustics, lighting and outside sporting facilities. Teachers also investigated the schools’ choice of construction and design materials. It is hoped that by visiting other schools we can avoid some of the unforeseen problems/delays that were experienced and take advantage of this.
Upon returning to the school later that day, all staff took part in three intensive workshop sessions:
The decant timetable. Staff were given a blank model of the school’s teaching timetable spanning over two weeks. It quickly became a challenging exercise as the timetable needs to be split over two schools. Our main concern is to minimise any disruption to the curriculum and also to our teaching staff. There are certain subjects such as Design & Technology that is taught across all academic years. This may mean that the teaching staff for those specialized and ‘smaller’ subjects may need to work between both schools.
The decant guidance structure. Our first priority is to retain the “house spirit” and our mentoring program. This workshop examined how that would work over two sites. We are lucky in the fact that the decant sites are only 10 minutes apart and there are plenty of opportunities in the New Territories for individual and whole school activities. We have proposed housing Years 7, 8, 12 and 13 in one decant site and housing Years, 9, 10 and 11 in another decant site. That would ensure that our student mentoring program continues for students in Years 7 and 8. On the other side of the coin, students in Years, 9, 10 and 11 will be able to progress smoothly into their middle years program and take full advantage of our additional academic programs such as Elements and Career support.
Learning at Island School. The teachers were assembled into groups to compare the international schools’ design models. We examined the positives and the negatives! Overall the teachers were positive in their assessments and noted that the schools had planned in depth for public access, use of green areas and rooftops, colour schemes, natural lighting, acoustics, outside facilities and teaching spaces. However, some problems arose in terms of under-estimating space required for certain classrooms and whole school activities. However, the main problems that arose were in the choice of construction materials such as flooring, installing appropriate wiring and electrical points, sourcing locally made materials for ease of future maintenance and safety standards, materials suitable for the damp and humid weather and the use of noise absorbing materials. We were also advised to fully explore materials such as demountable/flexible walls for the use of both flexible and independent teaching spaces.
Over the coming months, we shall continue with our redevelopment and decant plans by working closely with staff, parents, students and architects. Once we have received confirmation from the Education Bureau regarding a confirmed decant site, we will be in a position to arrange further information sessions.