New Jordan HS for Careers to feature modern career labs

The early designs of a new Barbara Jordan High School for Careers showcase a building that would give students the tools and labs to learn the latest skills for professions as diverse as welding and marketing.

“We want to use all of this building,” Principal Ross McAlpine told a small gathering of parents and alumni Tuesday night. “We don’t want any wasted space. We really need this school to work for the kids.”

Barbara Jordan High School is receiving $36.6 million under the bond program for a new school that will serve as a career and technical training hub for any interested students attending nine nearby high schools: Davis, Furr, Kashmere, North Forest, Reagan, Houston MSTC, Washington, Wheatley, and Yates. Students will spend part of the day at their home school and the other part at Jordan.

The transition to a career hub will take place as the school is rebuilt. Construction is tentatively slated to start in the second half of next year, and would take approximately two years.

The school held the first of three community meetings on Tuesday to gather feedback on preliminary design concepts. Among those in attendance were HISD Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Booker T. Morris III from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s office. The new school would feature a central administration area, with the automotive shop, precision metal, and construction programs in one wing of the building and quieter programs, such as human sciences, on the other side.

The main entrance would be off Kelley Street, but the school would also offer an equally welcoming space for students coming into the school from the back, where buses would drop off.

A.J. Sustaita, an architect with Corgan, told attendees that the goal is to create a building that will have presence on a very visible site. Jordan is located at 5800 Eastex Freeway, at the intersection of U.S. 59 and 610.

“I’m excited about a new school for Barbara Jordan,” said Mary Garrett, a former parent who currently serves on the school’s Project Advisory Team. She said the new facility will feature a lot of windows with views to green space, which will make a difference for students and staff.

In addition to lab space, the school would feature a learning commons with a monumental staircase that could be used for everything from studying to lectures. Because students will be traveling to Barbara Jordan from their home campuses, the building would feature grab-and-go lunch options.

McAlpine said the goal is to create an atmosphere of school pride, even with students who will only be on campus part of the day. By enrolling students from nearby high schools, he said the new facility will make a difference across a wide area by engaging students on relevant career paths.

“We have the opportunity to impact the graduation rate at eight high schools now,” he said, noting that students may be able to earn associate degrees and industry certifications.

“I think it will help students want to go to school,” said LaShunda Johnson, who has a 10th-grader at Jordan. She said it makes sense to diversify programs so students don’t compete with those at other schools. “All of the schools can’t offer the same thing,” she said.

Jordan’s magnet coordinator Al Lloyd said the new facility will continue to foster strong relationships with nearby businesses, including Metro and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

“We’ve put a lot of thought and work into how to build this building so it makes sense,” he said.

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