As the Houston Independent School District moves forward with planning for the 2012 bond program to renovate, build, or replace 40 schools, work is under way to finish all the projects in the 2007 bond program by the end of 2014.
As of September 2013, more than 86 percent of the approved work in the 2007 bond program was commited. Among the milestones are 22 new schools open for students, including Dogan and Atherton elementary schools. Sherman Elementary is slated to open during the fall of 2013. Two other campuses, Crockett and Valley West elementary schools, have been renovated and expanded.
Although new schools are often the highlights of any bond program, the $805 million in funding approved by voters in 2007 included more than 180 construction and renovation projects across the district.Read more about the 2007 bond program
Some of the projects were relatively small, such as the installation of 8,800 security cameras on campuses or upgraded restrooms. But the scope of work across the district has had a big impact, according to Dan Bankhead, HISD’s general manager for Facilities Design.
The overall goal of the 2007 bond program was to replace deteriorated and outdated school facilities, relieve overcrowding at various campuses, and renovate and repair aging facilities throughout the district to address safety concerns, accessibility requirements, and deferred maintenance issues.
“We really have improved the learning environment at several campuses through better comfort and fixing deferred maintenance problems,” Bankhead said. “We’re proud to have produced several award-winning facilities.”
Among those facilities is Piney Point Elementary School
, which replaced a 50-year-old building, and now has a capacity of 1,000 students. The new building in southwest Houston features a large multi-purpose cafeteria that doubles as a high-tech gymnasium.
Because so much of the 2007 bond program focused on elementary schools, HISD officials decided in 2012 to ask voters to put bond dollars to work on the district’s high schools.
The $1.89 billion program approved in November will rebuild or replace 40 schools across the city, including 29 high schools, many of which are more than 50 years old and cost-prohibitive to maintain.
So while the 2012 bond program is more than twice the dollar amount of the 2007 bond program, the scope of work is targeted to fewer schools. Still, building a new high school for as many as 3,100 teenagers is a decidedly different challenge than building a large elementary school, many of which serve no more than 750 K-5 students. In particular, new high schools demand more space and specialized infrastructure to support unique educational programs.
“The 2012 bond program is a new direction,” Bankhead said. “These projects will address the district’s needs on high school campuses.”
Even so, the two bond programs share some common ground, including the emphasis on providing technologically up-to-date and environmentally sustainable learning environments.
Schools built under the 2007 bond program were designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Key features in LEED schools include water-conserving plumbing fixtures and energy-efficient HVAC systems and controls. They also maximize the use of natural light.
“The energy savings that come from green schools is significant for the district,” Bankhead said. “In the times when budgets are being cut back, that helps.”
One such school is Herod Elementary, which opened a new building in 2011 in southwest Houston for 750 students. The school, built to LEED standards, offers new technology in every classroom, as well as outdoor areas for learning.
“The new campus is a source of pride in a community that truly values education,” says Herod Principal William Johnson. “The technology enhancements are helping Herod teachers further engage our students with interactive lessons.”