Barbara Jordan HS breaks ground on new regional career hub

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Neither gray skies nor threat of rain kept enthusiastic community members away from Barbara Jordan High School for Careers’ groundbreaking celebration on Tuesday, as more than 100 stakeholders turned out to mark the start of construction on a new $36.6 million facility.

“We’re celebrating an important milestone today,” said Jordan Principal Ross McAlpine. “We’ve spent a couple of years in planning, and now it’s great to see construction getting underway.”

The school is in the process of transitioning from a career magnet school to a regional career hub, which is open to students from nine area high schools. The new facility is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2018.

“We can increase the capacity of vocational learning to more students so they receive the training needed to go on to a wonderful vocation or to college,” HISD Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones said of the transition. “It’s a better use of our dollars and a more efficient use of our academic resources.”

Through HISD’s bond program, Jordan will receive a new 120,000-square-foot building to accommodate 600 to 800 students who will spend part of the day at their home school and part at Jordan where they will participate in specialized hands-on career-training. The new building will feature specially designed spaces for training and instruction in auto/diesel, audio/visual, construction management, cosmetology, early childhood development, culinary arts, marketing/entrepreneurship, electronics, and welding.

Joining Skillern-Jones as special guests at the event were City of Houston Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Davis, HISD Chief School Officer Julia Dimmitt, Booker Morris, district director for Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee, and Johannah Thompkins, community engagement coordinator for Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. Also in attendance was Rosemary McGowan, sister of the late Fifth District Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

“I know, on behalf of the Jordan family, that we are extremely proud of all your accomplishments,” McGowan told the students in attendance. “I am honored to be here to witness this occasion and thank you for keeping the legend alive for the outstanding person for whom it is named, an eloquent champion of justice and freedom.”

Two students were selected for the occasion to share reflections on their experience at the school. Raqeal Peterson, a junior cosmetology student from Wheatley High School, said she learned to value herself more, and has grown and developed many friendships during her time at Jordan. Cedrick Frank, a junior at Jordan, credited his teachers for helping him learn how to turn a failure into a success.

“Barbara Jordan High School instills in students not only educational success, but pushes each and every student towards greatness,” Frank said.

The new two-story building will feature large labs for construction, welding, and other loud programs on one side, while housing quieter programs such as cosmetology and early childhood development on the other. The second floor will contain a human science wing with allied health and medical biotech programs, as well as math classrooms and a video production lab. A large learning staircase in the center of the school will provide a flexible learning commons for studying, impromptu lectures, project work, or career exploration programs.

“Barbara Jordan is a very important school that was named for a very important person,” Skillern-Jones said. “For us to make this investment in our community means a great deal.”

Barbara Jordan High School for Careers is among 40 schools being renovated or rebuilt across the district as part of the 2012 Bond Program. Construction is underway at roughly three dozen campuses — more activity than any other time in district history. Almost 50 percent of bond projects will be complete and open to students by the end of this summer. Once all work is complete, HISD will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the nation.