Westbury HS ready to start construction

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Westbury High School held a bond community meeting on Wednesday to go over final design plans and provide an overview of what students, staff, and neighbors can expect during construction, which starts this month.

As part of HISD’s voter-approved, 2012 bond program, the school is set to receive a new, two-story addition, general renovations to the existing building, and new athletics facilities. The new facility will accommodate 2,300 to 2,500 students.

“It’s taken a lot of planning to get to this point, but we’re ready to move forward with construction,” said Westbury Principal Susan Monaghan. “We plan to officially break ground next week.”

The $40 million facility will feature a two-story classroom wing with 26 new classrooms that will replace current portable buildings. Also included are several flexible learning centers, a dual-purpose commons area designed to serve as both a dining hall and space for students to gather, and two gymnasiums with associated athletics facilities.

New baseball and softball fields were included in an early phase of the project and already have been completed.

“For me, it’s all about the kids,” HISD Board of Education President Wanda Adams told the group of about 50 stakeholders. “Principal Monaghan is doing amazing things at Westbury, and I’m going support her and do whatever I can to get her what she needs.”

Plans call for the front entrance to be redesigned and relocated to the atrium area to create an easily identifiable and prominent main entry. Two sets of doors will create a secure vestibule. Visitors may enter the foyer, but must get authorization to go further into the school.

The site plan also features a one-way student drop-off and pick-up area in front of the school, as well as bus pick-up and drop-off at the back, which will relieve traffic congestion.

“Traffic on Chimney Rock can be harsh, so the plan to redirect traffic is great – much-needed,” said Robert Capps, a 1978 Westbury graduate who attended the community meeting. “I think the design is beautiful. It’s the Taj Mahal. Westbury keeps getting better and better and better.”

Some community members voiced concerns about the safety of students, who must walk along a busy street and past an aging apartment complex to reach athletic fields that are not directly adjacent to the campus. Citing safety concerns, neighbors have asked the district to purchase and raze the apartments and improve the path for students. The complex is home to at least 100 Westbury students.

Trustee Adams encouraged those in attendance to contact their city council member with concerns about the apartments, as the purchase of the adjacent property is not within the scope of the bond program.

Others asked if funds could be diverted to fine arts spaces to boost the school’s newly-created fine arts magnet program.

“I would have liked to see more fine arts spaces because that’s what I’m interested in, but I understand that sports is a big draw for a lot of kids and they need that,” said Naomi Doyle-Madrid, who is considering the school as an option for her child. “But it’s a great plan. Kudos to all you guys for all you’ve done.”

Westbury plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 16, at 10 a.m. Construction is already underway and scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Westbury is among 40 schools, including 29 high schools, being renovated or rebuilt as part of the 2012 Bond program. Active construction is currently underway on roughly three dozen projects — more activity than at any other time in district history.

Almost half of the schools in the bond program will be complete and open to students by the end of this summer. Once all work is finished, the district will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the country.

For more information on HISD building programs, visit www.BuildHISD.org.