Austin HS stakeholders learn about design plans for new school

Members of the Austin High School community came out this week for the first of three community meetings to hear about plans for the school’s new campus. As part of HISD’s current bond program, Austin will receive a new $68.4 million building that will accommodate 1,800 to 2,000 students.

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Project architect, Eli Ochoa, President of ERO Architects, gave an overview of the plans to date and discussed some important features of the new building.

“We’re going to preserve the 1936 building as the legacy of the campus, but it’s going to be renovated in a very 21st century way,” Ochoa said. “We will open up the corridors, add plenty of daylighting and outdoor views, and connect the school with a pedestrian avenue that bisects the campus.”

Austin HS project information

The preliminary plan presented maintains the front facade and historic auditorium while renovating the architecturally significant portion of the building along Dumble Street. The back section of the building along Lockwood will be replaced with a new addition.

“I think it’s a great design plan that will have a positive impact on our students and staff,” said Austin High School Principal Steve Guerrero. “It incorporates openness, natural light, flexible learning spaces and much-needed safety features.”

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Currently there are multiple entrances to the school, which many feel is a security concern. The new concept includes a new entrance for visitors to enter from Jefferson Street, which will be constructed adjacent to new administrative offices. The plan also includes cutout drives for buses on Lockwood and parent cars on Dumble to avoid blocking traffic lanes during commute hours. Those entrances will be locked once the school day starts.

“I’m happy about the new building,” said Austin parent Veronica Nava, who is also a graduate of the school. “I like everything I saw tonight; it will be great for our kids.”

Additional features of the new campus will include new gymnasiums and CTE labs and a new kitchen and dining commons area with both indoor and outdoor seating options. The two current courtyards will be kept and enhanced as additional flexible learning space.

“I think the community members who came out tonight were interested, asked good questions and were concerned about their neighborhood,” said Project Advisory Team member Covey Nash, who graduated from Austin HS in 1958. “I was pleased with the presentation.”

Stephen F. Austin High School is located in Houston’s historic East End neighborhood. In addition to providing all students with a rigorous academic curriculum, the campus features a magnet program for teaching professions and a one-of-a-kind maritime careers program.

“The plans are really good and I look forward to coming back in the future and seeing the new construction,” said Austin HS senior Maria Henry. “I think students will be very excited to come to a new building knowing that everything is fresh and new.”

Construction is currently expected to begin in the third quarter of 2017 and take about 20 months to complete.