Sharpstown International School Teacher Kyle O’Heron chuckled as he pointed to a group of students who had planted themselves in desks that were the farthest possible distance away from the entrance to his classroom.
Without fail, he said, students always gravitate to the back of the classroom.
But in Sharpstown International’s new learning centers, where white boards hang on nearly every wall, the concept of front and back is now obsolete.
“My goal is to never have a back of the classroom,” O’Heron said, pointing to the large white board hanging directly behind the students. “The more board space we have, the more kids can be up and doing problems on the board.”
Sharpstown International School underwent a $6 million renovation to its existing building as part of the 2012 Bond Program. The renovation was comprised of three portions: updating and securing the main entrance, renovating the large breezeways to provide more flexible learning spaces, and building additional learning centers and flex lab spaces.
The main entrance was retrofitted with a security vestibule that provides controlled access and also gives the building an updated, modern feel. The main existing corridors were updated, enclosed, and air conditioned to make the space more inviting and usable. Flexible learning centers also were constructed in the heart of the campus.
“One of the things that this has allowed us is flexibility. We’re using the space in ways that are beneficial to students,” Sharpstown International School Principal Bryan Bordelon said, standing in the common area that adjoins the school’s new learning centers. “We have a lot of freedom to let our kids make the best use of the space.”
Bordelon also pointed to a new staff multipurpose room that had been great place for teachers to collaborate during professional development and in-service days.
The first day of school initially was planned for Monday, Aug. 28, but that start date was delayed as a result of damages and flooding sustained from Hurricane Harvey. Most HISD schools — including Sharpstown International — opened on Sept. 11, but some were further delayed or even relocated to temporary campuses as crews worked to repair buildings that sustained the most significant damage during the storm.
O’Heron said he was initially skeptical of the modern, mobile desks that came equipped with wheels for flexibility in reconfiguring classrooms. He said he worried that students might be distracted by the movement. But instead he has found that it allows students to easily shift and focus on the area of the classroom where he is teaching.
“That’s my goal for the year,” O’Heron said. “How can we use the space and mobility that’s here to put everybody at the front of the classroom at some point.”
Sharpstown International School is among eight new and renovated schools that opened for this first time this fall as part of the 2012 Bond Program. Bond construction is underway at more than two dozen campuses in HISD, with almost 50 percent of all bond projects now completed and open to students. Once all work is complete, HISD will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the country.