About 349 elementary schoolchildren study every day beneath a giant slab of concrete on Missouri Avenue on the east side of Fort Worth.
Only cars, a community garden and playground equipment can be seen at the street-level access to Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary. The school is underground, a design that has left it leaky and flooding, among other maintenance problems, for years.
“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 said:
Van Zandt-Guinn, built in the early 1980s, is getting an upgrade. The district plans to pour almost $10 million into improvements that include a two-story, wraparound addition with 14 classrooms. The money is coming from the $490 million capital improvement program approved by voters in 2012.
The school expects more than 200 additional students in fall 2016, as students from I.M. Terrell Elementary School move there. Trustees have decided to use Terrell as the site for two academies: the Visual and Performing Arts Center and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy.
The addition at Van Zandt will add 28,000 square feet and create a total capacity of 650 students.
Besides needing more space, the school lacks classrooms dedicated to music or art instruction like those at many other elementary schools in the district. It also has no dedicated classroom for special education students, school officials said.
Gaps in the sealant in the outside retaining walls mean large towels are rolled up against the walls to soak up the water that comes in when it rains. Some of the walls have heavy water stains.
“Our goal is to solve all the longstanding headaches and problems with this campus,’’ architect Patrick Glenn told trustees at an April meeting. “The waterproofing issues, the roofing issues.”
Glenn, a partner at Perkins Will in Dallas, is expected to begin the design work now on the new classroom additions and updates. Construction could begin as early as January, district architect Gary R. Griffith said.
“We want to turn this school into a new school for everyone,’’ Griffith said.
Currently, the school has no dedicated entrance or walkway, but the addition will include one. Architects also expect to cut windows into the concrete panels to provide natural lighting in classrooms, Glenn said.
Van Zandt-Guinn already has a large community garden, but architects are looking into creating a roof garden. It would be waterproofed to block rain from entering classrooms, school officials said.
“We feel it’s a very feasible project to move forward with,’’ Glenn said.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705