Construction Services administrative team tours new Milby, DeBakey high schools

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HISD Construction Services administrative staff excitedly boarded a big yellow school bus last Friday, eager to tour several district construction sites and see the fruits of their labor.

“It really is a team effort to build these schools,” said Derrick Sanders, HISD’s officer of Construction Services. “Our administrative staff is as important to what we’re doing as the architect or project manager, so I wanted them to get a firsthand look at what they are helping to build.”

The group of about 20 staffers got to walk through the newly constructed Milby High School and DeBakey High School for Health Professions, both of which will open this summer. The field trip also included a drive-by of High School for Law and Justice, Yates High School, and Energy Institute High School, which are all well into construction.

“I normally just pay the bills, and that’s it,” said accounting assistant Lupe Guzman. “I never get to see this side of it, so it’s nice to actually see the new schools.”

Guzman said the schools were beautiful and functional. She was impressed with the career and technical education (CTE) spaces at both Milby and DeBakey and liked that students will be able to practice in a realistic environment.

Milby’s new $68.8 million campus is a combination of new construction and a partial renovation that preserved the historical front facade while creating a modern learning environment for 2,000 students. The building features new academic wings, which will house science and engineering labs, and CTE spaces for welding, cosmetology, printing, and culinary arts.

Other features include a new secure main entrance and administrative offices, an auditorium with a black box theater, a large dining commons area and outdoor courtyard, and new gymnasium, dance room and locker rooms.

At DeBakey, students will enjoy learning about health professions in a new five-story building located in Houston’s world-renowned Texas Medical Center. The $64.5 million facility features state-of-the-art medical training equipment with teaching labs for dentistry, rehabilitation, and patient care. Extensive science labs, mock hospital rooms, and simulation patient-care labs will feature programmable mannequins, allowing students to diagnose various illnesses based on the symptoms presented.

Other building features include a ground-floor dining commons open to the five-story atrium, a large multipurpose room, and a college center. The top level of the facility houses a gymnasium, a fitness center, a black box theater, and fine arts spaces.

“Most people never get to see the goal. I think this will give them a different perspective on what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” explained construction services senior manager Cheryl Smith, whose group processes furniture orders for the new schools. “If it weren’t for them, these chairs wouldn’t be here. So now they can see the end result and how they’re a part of it.”

Both Milby and DeBakey are among 40 schools, including 29 high schools, being rebuilt or renovated as part of HISD’s 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 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.