Community Meeting at Booker T. Washington Draws Big Crowd

Booker T. Washington High School

More than 150 people turned out Tuesday evening at Booker T. Washington High School where they learned more about the district’s plan to build a new school at the site under the $1.89 billion bond program approved in November.

District officials held the meeting to review site needs, as well as the planning and design process for the new school.  “We’re going to be working very closely with the community planning the facility,” said Dan Bankhead, HISD general manager for facility design.

Located in Houston’s Independence Heights neighborhood, Washington was originally built in 1957. The new Washington will be designed to support up to 1,300 students, nearly 500 more students than the school’s current enrollment.

Janice Argudin came out to hear details about the project:  “What’s going to be in our building? That’s all we’re asking,” she said.

Specifics such as how the building fits into the neighborhood and how the classrooms are configured are part of the planning process, which HISD Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones urged the audience to be involved in.

“We’re trying to go step by step and involve the community because that’s what you asked for,” she said.

One way to be part of that process is to join the school’s Project Advisory Team, or attend its meetings, according to Principal LaShonda Bilbo-Ervin. “This building will give our students a sense of pride and our community a sense of pride,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Learn more about Project Advisory Teams

Cynthia McGowen Jones wanted to know about plans for vocational programs at the new school, which she hopes will help keep neighborhood students at their home campus.

“I’m encouraged about the plans, encouraged about the vision,” she said.

Washington is among the first group of 17 schools scheduled to begin the planning and design phase this year under the 2012 bond program. Construction should be under way by late 2014 and the new school could be open for students no later than 2017.