The initial construction phase for Lamar High School is expected to get underway this month after the district approves the project’s Guaranteed Maximum Price and issues a “Notice-to-Proceed” to the construction manager-at-risk, Gilbane Construction.
This first phase of construction — dubbed “Phase 0” — will focus on re-routing underground utilities, relocating the central utility plant, and demolishing a small portion of the current building that stands in the footprint of the new construction. Some street parking and athletics activities will be impacted.
“We will be inconvenienced during construction, there’s just no way around it,” said Lamar Principal James McSwain. “But we’ll make it work. I’m thrilled to have construction get underway.”
In the coming weeks, the existing track and practice field will be fenced and become part of the construction site. Soon after, parking along Eastside Street will be prohibited. In addition, buses will begin to drop-off and pick-up on Westheimer. Parking in this area also will be prohibited.
The school expects to hold a groundbreaking ceremony during the second quarter of 2017 to mark the start of “Phase 1” construction, which encompasses the new four-story building.
As part of HISD’s current bond program, Lamar will receive a new $108 million facility that preserves the architecturally significant building structure and accommodates up to 3,100 students. The existing main building with the well-known art deco façade facing Westheimer will continue to serve as the main entrance to the school. It will house the existing auditorium, an alumni center, a child-care facility for faculty and staff, and the performing arts area on the east end of the building.
The new building, featuring four large flexible academic areas, will be constructed on the east side of the property, perpendicular to the current structure. To accommodate the school’s new academic model, students will be separated by grade level, with each organized into self-contained neighborhoods of about 200 students or less. Students in each neighborhood will be taught by a team of interdisciplinary teachers who will place an emphasis on project-based learning and have the flexibility to set their own schedule.
Construction of the new facility is expected to run through the fourth quarter of 2018, followed by continued site development to rebuild parking lots and athletics field.
Lamar is among 40 schools, including 29 high schools, being renovated or rebuilt as part of the district’s $1.89 billion voter-approved bond program. Almost three dozen projects are expected to be under construction by the end of 2016 — more construction than at any other time in district history. Once the bond program is complete, HISD will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the country.
In addition to funding for new and renovated schools, the bond program also includes $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.