First bond community meeting held for new Yates HS

An auditorium full of community members gathered Tuesday evening at Yates High School to hear planning and design ideas for a new facility that will enhance its academics and special programs in a 21st century learning environment.

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The current building, located on Sampson Street in Houston’s Third Ward and open since 1958, is one of 40 schools HISD will rebuild or renovate under the district’s 2012 $1.89 billion bond program. Construction on the school is scheduled to begin mid- to late 2015, and the school will be open during construction.

“The main thing that everyone wants to see is what’s happening with the new Jack Yates High School,” HISD Trustee Paula Harris said. “As we start our process and before we start building to get a final picture … it’s time to have a community meeting to give an update on the process, to say the school will be ready in 2017, and keep the community engaged.”

Architects from Moody Nolan were on hand to present preliminary design concepts to the group of nearly 150 in attendance for a new three-story, 210,000-square-feet facility. The meeting was held to receive ideas from the community on a modern design of the building, which is expected to incorporate interactive learning while embracing the school’s history.

Read more about the project

During the meeting, however, many community members voiced concerns about the future of Yates. Issues ranging from design drafts to the presence of academic and trade programs quickly became hot topics of discussion.

“We went through the entire process how the building would be structured, and It was very detailed and an all-day process,” said Yates graduate and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) President Angela Wright Brantley. “I thought it was very helpful that we got a chance to see and reposition a school that suits our needs, and to come up with two different designs that we later voted on.”

Parents and Yates alumni present in the audience also voiced concern about a few proposed changes to the building, including a plan to change the school’s main entrance to face Alabama Street.

“We have held several [Project Advisory Team] meetings to talk about the construction of Yates High School,” Yates Principal Donetrus Hill said to the audience. “They have put in a lot of work on the committee, and we are very appreciative of what they have done.”

Architect Albert Ray of Moody Nolan explained to the audience that although the design for the school is not yet complete, it is important for the architects and HISD to work alongside the community for the best outcome.

“We have not designed the school yet because we want to make sure we’re designing it with the constituent groups and parents,” Ray said. “We want to make sure this is a collaborative process.”

Some attendees were concerned that constructing a new building may take away from school programs, resulting in a decrease of student enrollment. Others felt that the preliminary layout presented is designed for up to 1,500 students — a drop from the current building which can hold 2,000.

“I would like to see an updated facility with technology — they need it,” said Yates parent and alumnus Reda Tillman-Huff. “I would like to see the improvements at Yates, but I wouldn’t want to see another high school [built] that would take away from the population if we’re trying to build and keep the school in the community.”

To better serve the feedback presented at the meeting, HISD General Manager of Facilities Design Dan Bankhead encouraged the Yates community to attend upcoming Project Advisory Team meetings in an effort to collaborate with architects to design a campus that everyone will be pleased with.

“We’re building a school that we want to make sure makes the best statement as possible for Jack Yates students and its alumni,” Ray said.