Davis HS community hears about design plans for new school

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The new Davis High School on Houston’s north side is being built to preserve the facility’s history while becoming a 21st century campus that can prepare students for college and careers.

“The school itself brings the community together,” said Linda Lemon, a parent of a 15-year-old Davis student. “Bringing it into the 21st century will be awesome.”

Lemon was one of nearly 80 people who turned out Tuesday night at the campus for a community meeting to learn more about the project’s progress. Davis High School is one of 40 facilities being rebuilt or renovated under the $1.89 billion bond program approved by voters in 2012.

The goal is to build a new facility at Davis that preserves the architecturally significant building structure for a school that will accommodate up to 1,700 students.

The meeting on Tuesday, the first of at least three community gatherings at the school, was designed to begin gathering feedback and ideas on the facility design. The school’s Project Advisory Team, made up of administrators, teachers, alumni, students and neighbors, has had more than a dozen meetings since last year to begin planning the school. In May, the design kicked off May 20 with a two-day workshop to start developing drawings and site plans.

Davis High School Principal Julissa Alcantar-Martinez told the crowd that the PAT needs community input to ensure the new facility meets everyone’s expectations. “We’ve had lots of conversations and spent a lot of time together,” she said, urging the participants to weigh in on the process.

Preliminary site plans, presented by the architectural firm of Bay-IBI, show a design that would return the main entry back to the historic 1926 front door off Quitman. The design would preserve the courtyard while introducing a parking element to the west side of the site. The north parking lot will be turned into green space. The existing auditorium would be preserved and expanded,

Among the attendees at the meeting Tuesday were HISD Trustee Anna Eastman, City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, a representative from Congressman Gene Green’s office, a representative from state Rep. Jessica Farrar’s office, and a representative from LULAC. Elected officials urged the community to work together, stay involved and keep the conversation focused on building a school that reflects that collaboration.

“This can really be a landmark,” Gonzalez said, noting the potential to develop a college-campus atmosphere.

Among the questions raised at Tuesday’s meeting were issues surrounding the project budget, number of parking spaces, the allocation of space for athletics, including fields, and concerns about renovation work that might disturb asbestos in the older facility. Some attendees also expressed an interest in renovating the school pool to make it more appealing and functional. Others had questions about whether the students would be able to stay at Davis during construction.

Connie Esparza, a member of the school’s PAT and a 1966 graduate of Davis, expressed the difficulty of developing priorities for the school when all items are equally important to so many people. “The priorities are on the same level,” she said. “To get one for the other will shortchange this school.”

Jacob Salamanca, a senior at Davis High School, said he wants to see a school that more easily integrates technology into the building and into the learning process. And he hopes to see more from the PAT and the architects at the next community meeting. “They need to bring more ideas,” he said.