North Houston Early College HS opens doors early for visit from graduating seniors

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Having spent six years in a temporary campus, Principal Angela Lundy-Jackson couldn’t stop smiling as she showed off the new North Houston Early College High School, one of 40 schools being rebuilt or renovated under HISD’s 2012 bond program.

“Everyone is just giddy,” she said. “It’s been a tremendous learning process but now I see the reward.”

Located on land adjacent to Houston Community College off Fulton Street, the $13.5 million facility is designed to accommodate up to 400 students, all of whom integrate college coursework into their traditional high school degree plan. The goal for these students is to graduate from North Houston Early College High School with an associate degree in addition to their high school diploma.

On Tuesday evening, about 90 graduating seniors held their awards ceremony at the new school in a multipurpose room that will also serve as a gym. The event was bittersweet for the students, who got the opportunity to enjoy the facility at least once as they reminisced about four years in their T-building campus across the street. A senior breakfast also was held at the new school on Wednesday.

The new facility won’t officially open until August, but will host some summer programs, including freshman fish camp for an incoming class of 130 students.

“It makes me wish I could be here,” said Rocio Vallejo, who is graduating and will be studying nursing at Lamar University this fall. “I’m happy that students will have this new school.”

For Lundy-Jackson, the building represents another opportunity for her students, who will have modern classrooms, lab spaces and extended learning areas where they can pull out their laptops and collaborate on projects or work independently.

The process of planning, designing and building a new 57,000-square-foot school was an interesting challenge for the principal, who credited her project team for always keeping their focus on the needs of students.

“Everyone was really collaborative,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of bickering, fussing or fighting. We just kept it very focused.”

Read more about the North Houston Early College High School bond project

Not that there weren’t some setbacks, including rain delays last spring that impacted the schedule. Lundy-Jackson said she learned it was important to stay flexible as different issues and decision points came up on everything from the building’s layout to furniture and color selections.

“I was fortunate to have a great architect,” she said. As one of the first schools to be completed under the bond program, she encouraged other principals to remember the goal — a modern learning facility that will better serve students.

“You need to be really thoughtful about how decisions impact your project, especially when you change your mind,” she said. “If you delay the process, you can shoot yourself in the foot.”

Lundy-Jackson will spend the next few weeks working through the logistics of moving out of her temporary buildings and into the new building, where duties include setting up furniture and completing a construction punch list. She’s still waiting on permits for her elevators and has a long list of to-do items before August.

“It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it at the end,” she said.