Initial designs for a new Milby draw enthusiasm from school community

Alexis Reyes acknowledges she was initially skeptical of plans to rebuild Milby High School as a 21st century learning environment under the 2012 bond program.

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As a history teacher at the school, she wondered about how some of the ideas would work in practice: Would transparent walls be a big distraction? Would “living room style” learning areas just encourage students to goof off?

“We thought it was going to be an awful idea,” she told a group of more than 40 students, parents and alumni who turned out for a community meeting at Milby on Tuesday. “But we made a 180-degree turn after we saw these things.”

Reyes and other members of the school’s Project Advisory Team recently saw firsthand how 21st century schools function when they took a tour earlier this year to the Seattle area to see examples. Reyes said the trip made all the difference.

“It changed our perspective,” she said. “We were really impressed by how it worked.”

Reyes shared her experiences during a gathering Tuesday to review the progress of the Milby bond project to date. Among the attendees was HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez. Milby is among 40 HISD schools being renovated or rebuilt through the $1.89 billion bond program.

The East End school received $68.8 million to construct a new facility that will preserve the original school structure, which opened for students in 1926. The new school is being designed by the architectural firm of Kirksey.

On Tuesday, Kirksey’s Nicola Springer gave an overview of the design, which is still in the early stages. She told the audience that the new school will celebrate its history while incorporating the best of 21st century design, including lots of flexible spaces, natural light and green areas.

“What we’re trying to do is create the best environment for your students to learn in,” she said.

As part of that goal, the new school will integrate technology and create four different learning neighborhoods that allow for individual, collaborative and project-based work. The school’s historic main entrance area would be preserved and would feature the student union with a cafeteria that could also transition to a large group area. The new main entry would be on the south side of the building.

Principal Roy de la Garza said the new facility will help ensure that students are college and career ready by aligning the instruction to practical applications.

“It’s about teaching kids the things they are actually going to use later on,” he said.

Parent Rocio Solis said she liked what she saw. “I’m all for the 21st century,” she said. “Our students need to be prepared.”

Her comments echoed others, who also said the school was long overdue for a major face-lift. “I love what I see,” said retired teacher Joyce Roberson. “I taught here for 30 years, and all I ever saw was patchwork repairs. It’s time. I’ve been waiting a long time.”

Kirksey architects and HISD administrators urged attendees at the meeting to fill out comment cards and voice any questions or concerns. Parents Samia and Fernando Davila said they hope to see more information about how the construction will impact current students, as well as the traffic flow around the campus, which is often difficult because of the school’s location at the intersection of Broadway and Galveston.

Springer said traffic engineering studies are currently underway to develop the best solutions. “It’s really important that we’re safe on campus,” she said. “But we’re also going to make sure your kids are safe getting to and from school.”

To stay up to date on the Milby project, visit