Men and women in bright vests will soon break ground in Lansing as they begin putting a construction project into motion. Post Oak Academy, a Lansing elementary school that currently educates grades Pre-K-6, will soon fall under construction with a tentative start date of April 16.
This is just one part of the district’s $120 million bond proposal. The ideas of the district and the construction team were revealed to the community at an open house on Tuesday, March 20. However, this expansion was going to bring more than just a new multi-purpose facility, basketball court and pick-up and drop-off lot to the district.
The goal was not only to renovate and expand the school’s current amenities, but also to allow students in each grade to delve into Post Oak’s Chinese Immersion program in a more systematic manner. The academy will soon begin educating grades Pre-K-8 with the new classrooms and increased space.
Camela Diaz, the former Post Oak principal of 13 years, said that this expansion will give students the opportunity to remain in an immersion program through graduation; a program that went much deeper than the typical language course.
“It’s not that they take a Chinese language course—they are learning math in Chinese,” said Diaz. “So, it’s as if they are in China having class. So, it’s not just a Chinese language course, it is actual content through the Chinese language.”
This innovative, hands-on teaching technique is one that the leaders in Post Oak feel is working. The key? Allowing students to begin exploring the language at a young age. By the time they reach 9th grade, they’re already knowledgeable in an area that many schools don’t even begin teaching until high school.
Bob McGraw is the design team project director and architect for C2AE—an architecture, engineering and infrastructure design firm working with Lansing schools. He said when it came to the construction planning, the team relied heavily on community insight. McGraw said the district wanted to restructure the programs offered at each school to support their different pathways. That is when the design team would come in and alter the school’s layout. It was based on the district’s goals.
“At Post Oak, the idea was to add seventh and eighth grades to the building—not necessarily add more students, but just change the grade structure—and then address the fact that we didn’t have project labs, and we didn’t have adequate cafeteria and P.E. space,” McGraw said.
Eldon McGraw, who bears no relation to Bob Mcgraw, is the information manager for Lansing schools. Eldon McGraw said that it is often a natural progression for Post Oak students to proceed to Eastern High School because of the location and programs offered. This joint effort from the community and the design team would allow for a smoother transition from Post Oak to the high school, because there would be no gaps in the Chinese Immersion programming. From Pre-K-12, students were involved in the language.
“The community was involved in ideas and discussions about how to expand this school, and it’s such an awesome school. The Chinese Immersion program is world-renowned here, so it made sense to expand that for that reason,” Eldon McGraw said.
While a new gymnasium and a safer drop-off and pick-up system were needed, it was the addition of the seventh and eighth grades that many Post Oak educators believed would make the biggest change. At a young age, students were immersed in the Chinese language, and with this expansion, educators would make sure it did not stop there.
“It’s exciting to watch them, how quickly they’re not afraid of it,” said Diaz. “As adults, we’re afraid of things that we don’t understand, things that we don’t know, things that are hard to learn, but the little ones are not afraid.”