“Morning. How’s everyone doing?” asked HISD Superintendent Terry Grier as he made a tour of the Jones Futures Academy on the first day of school Monday. “We are proud of you guys — you’re going to work hard this year?”
The enthusiastic students responded with a resounding, “Yeah!”
Jones High School is experiencing a renaissance this school year. While it is now the official home of the Jones Futures Academy, the South Early College High School continues to hold classes on campus, and 10th- through 12th-grade students from Milby High School will go there for the next three years. Both of those schools have new campuses being constructed.
The first day of classes ran smoothly. The biggest challenge occurred at the beginning of the day when students came late or were not quite sure where they needed to go. All three schools — Futures Academy at Jones, South Early College High School and Milby High School — will be maintained as separate entities on the campus. They each have a designated part of the building and go to lunch at separate times.
The Jones Futures Academy is a specialized high school, which will enable students to fulfill high school graduation requirements while simultaneously earning industry certifications, college credits, or an associate of applied science degree.
“Congratulations on being here in this new program at Jones. This is going to be really exciting, you’ll graduate from high school and have a two-year college degree already for free. All you have to do is come every day and work hard,” Dr. Grier told the students Monday morning.
Working with Houston Community College and industry partners, the Futures Academy program provides students the opportunity embark on a rigorous course of study to learn valuable technological skills. Upon completion of the program, students will be highly sought after by industry, as well as academically advanced for those who continue their education. The program is specifically tailored to meet the current and future needs of Houston’s thriving industries in the medical, construction technology, and HVAC fields.
While the students from Jones High School have been given priority enrollment access to the Futures Academy, students who choose not to go into the new program are rezoned to Worthing and Sterling high schools.
The principals for all three schools have been working together and with HISD administrators all summer to assure a smooth transition for the three student bodies. Student reaction was very positive Monday. “When the students see that we are like brothers,” said Geovanny Ponce, Jones Futures Academy principal, “they are going to be like brothers and sisters.”
Steven Gourrier, South Early College High School principal, had the same sentiment and said, “Everybody is coming home. Everyone is coming to a place where they will be engaged with learning for the next three years.”
The South Early College High School has called Jones High School home since 2010, but expects to move into its own 57,000-square-foot, two-story building, located at Highway 288 and Airport Boulevard, next year. SECHS is the only premier early college high school in HISD designated as a magnet school focusing on the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The areas of concentration are computer science, software engineering, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
Students from Milby High School make up the largest group of the three schools. Milby, as part of the 2012 HISD bond program, will be rebuilt over the next three years. Milby ninth-graders will be attending classes at Attucks Middle School, while 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders will stay at Jones during the construction.
“Overall the morning has gone incredibly smooth,” noted Milby High School Principal Roy De La Garza. “We’re expecting to get a pump in population once these guys start tweeting out to their friends that everything is okay at Jones.”