Booker T. Washington High School celebrated a big milestone Tuesday morning with a festive groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction on a new $51.7 million campus.
More than 100 parents, students, staff, alumni, and community members attended the event and were joined by HISD Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones, State Sen. John Whitmire and Houston City Councilwoman Karla Cisneros.
“This is a wonderful occasion and the beginning of amazing things to come for these students and the community,” Skillern-Jones said. “This neighborhood has a rich history. I think the new building will be a great addition and hopefully attract kids back to their neighborhood school.”
As part of HISD’s $1.89 billion bond program approved by voters in 2012, Washington will receive a new 180,000-square-foot building that will accommodate up to 1,300 students. The building will showcase the school’s engineering program with 21st century technology, specialized engineering and science labs, and flexible learning spaces to support project-based learning and encourage collaboration.
“The new building embraces the engineering program that the school has had for many years,” said architect Jim Hepburn of Fanning Howey/ House + Partners. “It’s a unique setup. We’ve moved the engineering programs, construction, technology, computer, and agriculture, all to the front of the building so that all students are exposed to them and hopefully be encouraged to join.”
The school is located in the Independence Heights neighborhood of Houston and enjoyed strong alumni and community support throughout the planning and design phases.
“Washington High School is a great place to be,” said Principal Carlos Phillips II. “Our students are outstanding. Our school community supports the things that we do, and I’m proud to be a part of the Washington family.”
Nearly 16 acres of land adjacent to the school was acquired by the district as part of the plan to nearly double the size of the campus. During the spring of 2015, a geological fault line was discovered running diagonally across the new campus site, which caused the campus to undergo design modifications.
Students will continue to attend classes in the existing building during construction, which is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2017. Once the new building is occupied, the old building will be demolished.
“It was a really nice ceremony and a significant moment for students,” said Eliezer Meraz, a junior at Booker T. Washington High School. “It’s a big step, not only for the school, but for the community as a whole.”