Neff Elementary Celebrates Dedication of New School

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A crowd of about 60 people gathered at Neff Elementary School in southwest Houston on Friday to dedicate its new 750-student campus built under the district’s 2007 bond program.

“This school has laid a tremendous foundation academically for our students,” HISD District VI Board Member Greg Meyers said. Chief School Officer Sidney (Chip) Zullinger also praised the new school and the progress students have made since the new building opened.

Since opening in the fall, students and staff have done a lot of work to make the new building feel like home, with artwork hanging on the walls and the individual classroom doors decorated to reflect different college themes. Neff is unique within HISD in that it serves elementary students from grades 2 through 5, rather than starting at kindergarten or pre-K.

“It’s a wonderful learning environment,” former Neff PTO president Darla Turner said. “Students are now appreciative and proud of where they go to school.”

Turner, who was a member of the school’s 2007 bond program Project Advisory Team, said she was glad she and other parents were able to provide their suggestions while the new campus was being built.

Among the visitors for the dedication was Howard Hill of PDG Architects, which designed the $15.1 million facility. Hill said the design process was a community effort that incorporated the specific needs of the school to create a unique building. “It was pretty seamless,” he said.

For example, the cafeteria also serves as a multipurpose room with a two-sided stage that offers instructional and performance space. The library was placed on the second floor so that it could serve as a beacon for the community, Hill said.

The ceremony included student piano and dance performances and was followed by “Hooray for Neff Day,” which included classroom tours of the new facility.

“As you walk through the halls of Neff, think of all the children that will be inspired,” Neff Principal Rupak Gandhi said.

Gandhi encouraged students to treasure the experience of having a new building. “Together we’ve constructed a new foundation to build Neff’s traditions of respect, integrity, responsibility and perseverance; the story of our building has just begun,” he said.

Chief Operating Officer Leo Bobadilla said the school reflects a commitment to excellence, not only with a wonderful new building but with teachers and staff who work hard every day to create a rigorous and welcoming learning environment.

Administrators hope the project will earn the United States Green Building Council’s LEED silver certification for building practices that are environmentally sustainable and efficient.

“It is the district’s goal to continue to build schools that are not only sustainable, but that create an environment that is conducive for student learning and growth,” Bobadilla said.