HISD’s Energy Institute High School held a high-tech groundbreaking on Saturday as student-built robots took the lead, turning over dirt alongside school and district officials to formally mark the start of construction on their new school.
The planned 110,000-square-foot building, located at 3501 Southmore Blvd., will mimic the look of a high-tech corporate environment and house the first energy-themed high school in the nation.
”This project has been a labor of love,” Principal Lori Lambropoulos said of the new building. “This school is the first one of its kind in the nation. We’re making history in the area of corporate involvement, and we’ve made it our mission to attract students that really want a career in the energy industry.”
Joining in the celebration were HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and HISD Trustees Jolanda Jones, Mike Lunceford, and Wanda Adams, as well as representatives from several major energy companies that have partnered with the school.
Lambropoulos said that the school works closely with Houston’s energy industry and its associations with the expectation that graduates of the school will help fill the gap in the energy workforce.
“This is an incredible moment. It’s not often when the community gets to break ground on a state-of-the-art, brand new school building,” Carranza said. “We’re educating our students today for a future, much of which we don’t even know what is going to look like yet. We’re training them to be successful in jobs that have yet to be created.”
More than 100 students, parents, staff, and community members turned out for the event, where they had the opportunity to sign a steel beam, which will be used in the construction of the new building. The event also showcased student projects, and seniors were given a small bottle of dirt from the site as a memento of the occasion.
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“The building will not be traditional. Our project-based learning sets our school apart,” said Energy Institute student Andrew Farias, who helped design the building as a member of the school’s Project Advisory Team. “Our new building will serve as a model for future programs, and I can’t wait to see future students break new ground in this innovative space.”
Designed for project-based learning, the new school will be comprised of three main buildings with multi-level, flexible spaces for individual and group projects. A central courtyard with cascading stairs and trellis visible from the entryway stairs will offer additional space for socializing and learning.
“It was exciting for me, when I visited the school, to see the kids engaged in project-based learning, where they can actually see how their work will apply in real life,” said Trustee Jolanda Jones, whose district includes the planned site of the new school. “I’m hopeful that this school will become a vital part of the Third Ward community, and I’m hopeful that other schools in HISD will be able to model what we’ve done here.”
The $37 million school, which is funded with district resources unrelated to the 2012 bond, is one of nearly three dozen schools currently under construction across the district. Located at the corner of Southmore Boulevard and Tierwester Street, the school is designed to accommodate up to 800 students and has a target completion date in the third quarter of 2018.
“I can proudly say that we did more that just build a school building,” Energy Senior Timothy Chung said as he welcomed attendees to the event. “We built a vision and a culture for the Energy Institute High School to be proud of and to continue to carry on for many years to come.”