Westbury High School Principal Susan Monaghan flashed a smile as she grabbed a shovel adorned with a bright blue bow and dug it into the dirt at her feet.
Flanked by district, campus and bond project officials, Monaghan then lifted her shovel and turned it over, letting clumps of dirt fall to the ground in a ceremonial groundbreaking marking the start of construction at the campus.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this history-making event at Westbury High School,” Monaghan said as she kicked off the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.
Westbury is among 40 schools, including 29 high schools, being renovated or rebuilt as part of the voter-approved 2012 bond program.
The $40 million project calls for general renovations to the current building, as well as a new addition with 26 classrooms to replace existing temporary buildings, new flexible learning centers, a dual purpose commons serving as both a dining area and space for students to gather, and two new gyms.
New baseball and softball fields were included in an earlier phase of the project and already have been completed.
“I’m really excited about all the investments we’re making in every child. Every child matters in HISD,” HISD Board of Education President Wanda Adams said, noting that she was happy to help reinstate the school’s fine arts magnet program and secure funding for new athletics fields.
“We are family in HISD. As long as we keep that in the forefront of our minds, we will be great all over.”
Westbury supporters gathered in the school’s atrium on Thursday to celebrate the project milestone. The marching band pumped up the crowd as visitors arrived, while the choir kept up the energy during the ceremony with a performance of I Believe I Can Fly. The Jazz Ensemble and the Blue Diamond Dancers also added to the festivities.
Several dignitaries attended the event, including Houston District K City Council Member Larry Green, and former Westbury counselor Joyce Thierry, who presented Monaghan with a proclamation and flag flown over the Texas Capitol on behalf of her daughter, District 146 State Rep. Shawn Thierry.
“Great things are happening at this school, and people are talking about Westbury,” HISD Chief School Officer Jocelyn Mouton said, pointing to Principal Monaghan as the reason for the school’s growing momentum. “With the new academic wing and the athletic facilities, it’s only going to get better.”
Westbury students and parents shared in the excitement on Thursday.
Student Council President Jeremy Sanders said he thought the construction and renovation plans were “awesome” and “well overdue.”
“This — this is my favorite part,” the 16-year-old junior said as he threw up both arms and pointed toward the site of the planned new addition, where construction was already getting underway. “Getting rid of the temporary buildings.”
With the new classroom wing, students will have less distance to cover between classes, Sanders explained, noting that students will be safer and more likely to get to class on time, which he said should boost grades.
PTO President and Westbury parent Princina Thomas said she was elated to witness the groundbreaking and considered it the start of better things to come. She said she was especially pleased that plans included new sports facilities and community spaces, both of which will inspire pride.
“The goal is we continue to shine not only in this community, but all over HISD,” said Thomas, whose daughter is a senior this year. “To show that we’re the best among the best, as well.”
HISD currently has roughly three dozen projects under construction — more activity than any other time in district history. Nearly half of all 2012 Bond Projects are expected to be complete by the end of June. Once all work is done, the district will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the country.