Approved by Houston voters in 2012, HISD’s Bond Program will renovate or rebuild 40 schools across the district, and Interim Chief Operating Officer Lenny Schad shared the latest details during the July episode of Up Close with Manuel Rodriguez.
“This summer is shaping up to be a turning point in the bond program,” Rodriguez said, as he opened his show. “Currently, we have more than two dozen schools under construction, and we are set to open six new schools in August.”
Schad described the summer as a “pivotal” moment in the life of the bond program.
“Not only are we breaking ground on a lot of campuses, we’ve actually completed some projects,” Schad said, noting that work has already been completed at Worthing High School (Phase 1), Tanglewood Middle School, and North Early College High School, as well as completed renovations at Butler and Barnett stadiums. “Lots of activity. It’s an exciting time for the bond program.”
Rainy weather has had a significant impact on district construction projects. Construction crews are working hard to make up for weather delays and currently are on track to complete the six schools scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2016-2017 school year — Condit and Mark White elementary schools, North Houston Early College and South Early College high schools, Mandarin Immersion Magnet School, and (non-bond) North Forest Early Childhood Center.
“The weather has not been our friend. We’ve seen unprecedented rainfall this spring, and for construction that’s our worst nightmare,” Schad said. “We’ve worked really hard to maintain some schedules.”
Rodriguez also inquired about construction costs and asked how a high volume of construction in Houston had impacted the bond program.
“Early on, the prices in Houston jumped higher than we anticipated, but since the first of the year we’ve seen a leveling off – prices haven’t gone down, but they are not continuing to escalate,” Schad said. “Bids are coming back within the project budget, so that’s good.”
In addition to renovation work at schools across the district, the bond program also includes $100 million in technology upgrades, $44.7 million to replace regional fieldhouses and improve athletics facilities, $35 million to renovate middle school restrooms, and $17.3 million for safety and security improvements.
Rodriguez said it had been exciting to watch the new schools take shape throughout the construction process.
“Once the projects are all done, Houston will be the largest urban school district with the newest buildings in the nation,” Rodriguez said.