Nearly 500 students, staff, and school supporters attended a groundbreaking ceremony for Lawson Middle School on Friday to officially mark the start of construction on the new campus and to honor the dedicated educator for whom the school is now renamed.
Lawson is among 40 HISD schools being renovated or rebuilt as part of the 2012 Bond Program. The three-story, $59 million facility will be designed to accommodate up to 1,500 students and showcase their fine arts magnet program.
New design features will include a new dining commons, gym, and a central courtyard area, where students can gather to learn and study throughout the day. Plans also include a new fine arts building, which will feature a modern black box theatre that also can be used as a multipurpose space.
The new school will be built on fields adjacent to the existing building, retaining its main entrance on Stancliff Street. Students will attend classes in the original building throughout construction, which is expected to be completed in fourth quarter 2017.
“I am so proud and honored to celebrate the groundbreaking for our new Audrey H. Lawson campus,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams who presides over District IX in which Lawson is located. “This celebration marks a new era for the Hiram Clarke community. The school will have a state-of-the-art facility with a new name that properly reflects its commitment to fine arts and outstanding education as exemplified by its namesake.”
Formerly known as Dowling Middle School, the campus was renamed this year in honor of the late Audrey H. Lawson, a longtime educator, community activist, and founding first lady of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. The ceremony also honored her legacy.
“Audrey loved children and was passionate about education and the arts,” said Rev. William Lawson, husband of the school’s namesake. “She would be so proud that the board of education chose to honor her in this way, and our family is very grateful.”
The program, which was emceed by ABC13 News Anchor Melanie Lawson, included performances by the Madison and Yates high school bands. Several elected officials and community stakeholders turned out to offer words of congratulations and support. Among them were former HISD superintendent and U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, U.S. Congressman Al Green, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, State Sen. Rodney Ellis, State Rep. Alma Allen, State Rep. Ron Reynolds, State Rep.-Elect Shawn Thierry, Precinct 7 Constable May Walker, Houston City Council Member David Robinson, Texas State Board of Education Member Lawrence Allen, Houston Community College Trustee Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, and City of Houston Education Director Juliet Stipeche.
“We are all excited about the progress in the building of our brand new school,” said Lawson Principal Tynette Guinn. “Our new campus will allow our teachers to prepare our scholars to compete on a global scale and become HISD Global Graduates. With our state of the art facility, we will also be able to serve as a pillar of excellence in our community.”