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Hard hats and safety vests were required dress for Thursday’s quarterly meeting of Houston Independent School District’s Bond Oversight Committee, which featured a tour of the new Sterling Aviation High School construction site.
The tour began in the school’s airplane hangar, which serves as the centerpiece of the new school as well as its focus on aviation science. The hangar also will serve as a space for students to work on airplanes and their engines, and large viewing windows will allow students and staff to see the hangar from many points, including the main entrance.
“It’s a very impressive looking building. I’m overwhelmed by the size of it,” BOC member Sonny Flores said, as he and fellow committee members entered the three-story, 230,000-square-foot structure.
Sterling Aviation High School is among 40 schools across the district being renovated or rebuilt as part of the district’s current Bond Program. The construction site tour kicked off the April meeting of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.
Built to accommodate 1,600 to 1,800 students and support the latest technology, the campus will also include state-of-the-art science labs, numerous learning commons areas, and flexible classroom spaces. The building is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of this year.
While on the tour, the committee got the opportunity to see the school’s new administrative area, as well as the learning stairs, an innovative feature that serves not only as a staircase, but also as a flexible learning space small groups or impromptu lectures.
“I’m happy that it has progressed so much,” BOC member Jessica Diaz commented as she strolled through the building. “The principal seems really happy with it too. You can really see the 21st century features that we’ve talked about so much.”
The tour also included stops at the auditorium, the main gymnasium, and the dinning commons area, which will be open to a main hallway and will feature flexible seating to provide space for small group meetings and project-based learning throughout the school day.
“From the outside, you don’t get the idea of the open spaces and natural light,” BOC member Bob Eury observed during tour. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Following the tour, the committee moved to the Sterling High School library for an update on the bond program’s first quarter progress. Bond team officials noted that the district had 22 active construction sites by the end of the first quarter, seven more than at the start of the first quarter. Additionally, seven construction contracts were executed, including two for districtwide projects.
The first quarter also saw the first completed bond project. The addition at Tanglewood Middle School, formerly Grady Middle School, welcomed students in February.
In addition to several project-specific questions, BOC members inquired about the timing of bond sales, the budget for maintenance of new facilities, and user training on new technology and equipment.
Looking ahead to the next quarter, bond team officials also briefed the committee on several projects nearing completion: North Houston Early College, South Early College, and Worthing (Phase 1) high schools, Mark White and Condit elementary schools, Mandarin Immersion Magnet School and Delmar Fieldhouse.
“I’m very pleased with where we are at; the pricing we are seeing is encouraging,” said Lenny Schad, HISD interim chief operating officer. “We’re on track to have all remaining contracts, except one, signed by the end of the year.”
The next quarterly meeting of the Bond Oversight Committee is scheduled for July 26.