Westbury HS community gets preview of addition, renovations for campus

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The Westbury High School community on Thursday got a preview of proposed addition and renovations under the 2012 bond program that would help transform the building into a more modern campus.

“I’m really excited to see the improvements at Westbury,” said Becky Edmonson, who serves on the school’s Project Advisory Team and is president of the Westbury Civic Club. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

About three dozen parents, neighbors and HISD administrators turned out for the community meeting, designed to gather feedback on early design concepts for the project. The current proposal would see the construction of a new 2-story addition at the school at the corner of Chimney Rock and Dryad.

That building would feature learning centers, new replacement athletic facilities, as well as a commons area that would serve a dual purpose as new dining cafeteria and gathering space. Scott Brady of Joiner Architects, told the audience that the goal is to use the new building to help give the students a state of the art facility to support 21st century learning styles.

The new building would eliminate the need for the more than two dozen temporary buildings located off Burdine Street.

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The team is also looking at ways to renovate the main campus building by relocating the main entrance to the campus to a more prominent location which will help create a new identity image for Westbury High School.

In addition to a new entry for the campus, there will be other areas within the existing campus renovated to create flexible use 21st century learning environments in both the new and existing portions of Westbury High School.

“I live five minutes away so I know how much it means to the community,” said Westbury Assistant Principal Jeri Nixon. She said a guiding principle for the project is to create a building that supports academic excellence while ensuring the safety of all students.

Among concerns raised at the meeting is creating a safe passage for students who will be using the new baseball and softball complex that will be under construction soon along the east side of Gasmer on non-contiguous property purchased by the district. That work is being done in addition to the $40 million bond project.

HISD administrators reassured the audience that the district was looking into options for students to get to the fields, including sidewalks and van transportation.

Other questions focused on a funding proposal that could add some additional money to all 2012 bond school projects, if approved by the Board of Education. Since 2012, when Houston voters approved the district’s $1.89 billion bond program, the district has seen an unprecedented and unanticipated spike in construction costs of nearly 40 percent.

The proposal under consideration by the Board of Education would provide $200 million in proceeds by issuing new debt using Maintenance Tax Notes. The remaining balance of $11 million would be taken from the reserve fund of the 2007 bond program, which is now complete.

This new debt would not impact funding for any other school district needs, nor would it impact the district’s credit rating or the tax rates paid by property owners.

If approved, the $211 million would be distributed proportionately to each project’s original construction budget to support needs related to project scope.

Parent Melanie Rosen, whose 10th-grader attends Westbury, said she felt hopeful after hearing about the design plans presented on Thursday, and wants to see Westbury turn into the school of choice for neighborhood families.

“I would love to see this school brought up to the 21st century,” she said. “We need more choices.”