Redevelopment & Decant Update June 2015

Since our last redevelopment and decant information briefings, Island School has spent the past few months working around the clock to formalise arrangements for the decant to Shatin.  As you can imagine, our planning has taken us from the initial stages of tentatively assessing minimal disruption to the students’ current curriculum and teaching staff timetables to putting such practices into realistic action plans.  To do this our architects, Thomas Chow & Associates were formally appointed last month to manage the decant process with the development staff from Island School and the ESF.

Borrett Road

Co Creation Workshops

During the past few weeks, Thomas Chow Architects held co-creation workshops with faculty heads from each department to build long term flexibility.  This enabled each faculty to identify classroom designs, teaching styles and curriculum requirements, and an opportunity to assess multi-teaching or individual classroom spaces.  It may be that some faculties are able to house a combination of both space concepts.

During the month of June, further co-creation workshops will be held with all Senior Leadership Teams to allow for teaching staff to have the greatest input into the overall design concept of Borrett Road.  We shall be assessing the whole campus from multi-purpose and open plan classrooms, to individual to whole school communal areas to retaining the individual house system, exclusive areas for parents / student meetings, house events and charity events.  Island School’s Vice Principal, Mr Gareth Stevens together with Billy Tam from Thomas Chow Architects visited schools and educational institutions in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark at the end of May/early June.   The purpose of this trip is to assess whether we are able to adopt new concepts into our educational model which accommodates the IB curriculum and teachers’ needs.

Condition of Buildings

The ESF Maintenance team continues to carry out monthly structural inspections of the Borrett Road site.  There were few defects detected but general repairs and upkeep is required which will take place during the summer months.

Summer works

All faculties attended the Summer Works Meeting on 24 March to consider refurbishing the classrooms and communal areas.  Furthermore we are considering transforming redundant spaces into larger teaching spaces, removing built in cupboards to accommodate larger teaching areas, reconfigure storage areas and the purchase of new furniture such as chairs and tables for the classrooms.

Decant Schools

During the past few months, Senior Team Leaders from each faculty have been attending meetings with Thomas Chow & Associates.  These meetings focused on the current facilities at the decant sites.  As we mentioned in our previous parent briefings, the decant sites have adequate space to accommodate 600 students per site but we are undergoing a remodeling of each decant site to provide large classrooms particularly for specialised subjects.  We are also planning various other internal remodeling schemes to enlarge spaces for the teaching and support staff, redecoration works, and installation of new hi-tech equipment.

We aim to continue to offer our wide range of extra-curricular activities and are reviewing available sporting facilities in the New Territories. We are also fortunate that we are able to forge relationships with other international schools notably ESF Sha Tin College and Renaissance College, and have the use of Government facilities in the locality of the decant sites such as the Sports Institute of Fo Tan.

Travel Arrangements

We are of course aware of parents’ concerns regarding travelling arrangements.  For the past few months we have been assessing various transport options and travel times to the decant sites with the PTA, ESF feeder schools and our bus companies.  This is no easy task.   We have had to take into consideration our current school bus times, traffic situations, pick up/collection points and school start and finish times.  We are therefore considering the following options:

(1) To avoid lengthy bus journeys using our current bus timetable, have one pick up/drop off point in Central to transport students and staff direct to Tai Wai and Sha Tin.  This would mean students finding their own way to Central but we realise that younger students (Years 7 and 8) may find this problematic.

(2) Continue with our current bus timetable picking up students from designated points across Hong Kong Island and transport to a Central location.  This would of course incur higher costs for parents which we hope to avoid.

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(3) Continue with our current bus timetable and using those individual buses, transport students direct to Sha Tin and Tai Wai.  This again would incur higher costs for parents.

(4) MTR and public bus options.

Of course, students remaining at school for extra-curricular activities at this current time are able to ride the activity bus to Admiralty and Pier 3 in Central.  Our aim is to continue to offer our wide range of extra- curricular activities which are currently held within and outside of the school and thus are looking at viable bus options.

Lastly, we have had very positive meetings with principal heads of our feeder schools for those students who will be joining Island School in Year 7 this August.  Principals from our feeder schools have been and will continue to engage with parents and the PTA in seeking to avoid disruption for all.  Thomas Chow & Associates will continue to spend a great deal of time meeting with all relevant parties over the next few months.  We therefore hope to be in a position later in the year to advise parents accordingly.

Staff Visits and Workshops for Redevelopment and Decant – 9 March 2015

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.

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Decant Site

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Teachers Redevelopment Planning Workshop

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Teachers’ Decant Meeting – Monday, 2nd February 2015

All Island School staff attended an informative decant meeting held yesterday evening. Gareth Stevens and Chris Binge confirmed that in early 2016 Island School will be in a position to reveal the exact location of the new two school sites in Tai Wai.  Teachers offered their expert opinions regarding the best possible strategies for ensuring continuity of the school ethos, maintaining our current house system and curriculum and avoiding disruption to students.

Staff explored three areas of concern: curriculum and timetabling, logistics and transport and ethos and opportunities.   Staff were split into their respective “houses” and asked to explore opportunities within the locality of Tai Wai such as the availability of larger outdoor facilities, links with local schools and having the New Territories on our doorstep!  Staff were also asked to highlight their major concerns from delivery of the curriculum across the two sites to teachers’ working timetables and travelling times.  Over the next few weeks we shall be analysing staff concerns in preparation for our next staff workshops followed by parent workshops later in the year.

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Thursday Afternoon ‘Drop-in’ Sessions

If any parents would like to come up to school to have an informal chat about any redevelopment issues or just to find out what the current state of play is, please be informed that we are holding ‘drop-in’ sessions on Thursday afternoons in Room 111 from 3:30 – 5:00pm. If you do want to attend please email Gareth on gareth.stevens@online.island.edu.hk

A very successful Redevelopment Parents’ Information Evening

Island School had the pleasure of hosting over 76 parents at our redevelopment information evening on Tuesday. Mr Chris Binge (Principal) and Gareth Stevens (Vice Principal) updated parents on the exciting new plans for the redevelopment of the Borrett Road site and the decant to Kowloon.  We were delighted to have Mr Billy Tam and Ms Peggy Seto from Thomas Chow Architects present the latest proposed designs for Island School.  Mr Chris Binge stressed the importance of keeping the “Island School spirit” during the decant and within the redevelopment of Borrett Road.

Although we were unable to reveal the exact location of the decant site, we do expect to hear from the Education Bureau shortly.  However, we shall endeavour to keep parents informed of developments and hope to be in a position to reveal our decision regarding the overall design of Island School after the New Year.

For a full report of the meeting, please click on the link below

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Parent Redevelopment Update – Tuesday 25th November

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Island School has the pleasure of inviting all our current parents and primary parents to the Island School Redevelopment: Parents’ Evening on 25 November from 6:30pm – 8:30 pm in the school’s Main Hall.

In attendance will be Mr. Chris Binge (Principal) and Mr. Gareth Stevens (Vice Principal) who will talk about the developments to date and the challenges still to face.  Also, Mr Billy Tam and Ms Peggy Seto from Thomas Chow Architects will be showing a presentation of the design concept of the new Island School.

We very much look forward to meeting all our parents and welcoming the primary school parents.