Wisdom HS staff work around the clock to repair leaks, open new school after Hurricane Harvey

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Senior Jasmine Jones cringes when she thinks of the old Wisdom High School. Corridors were narrow and dark, the air conditioning was always on the fritz, and negativity seemed to surround the student body.

It looked and felt like a prison, Jones and her friends said Monday — their first day of class in the new Wisdom High School, which was built as part of the 2012 Bond Program.

“It’s just a whole new environment. It feels so different,” Jones said, noting that the impact of having a modern new building was academically and emotionally significant. “I feel like people are going to be more into school and trying to learn. I feel like even the teachers are more motivated.”

The $74.9 million project called for a 280,000-square-foot facility that will accommodate up to 1,900 students. Divided into four neighborhood wings, the two-story school features flexible learning spaces and plenty of windows to maximize natural light.

The building also showcases a state-of-the-art theater, gymnasium with accompanying weight room, JROTC area, and music rooms. The main entrance to the school will continue to face north, allowing the campus to keep its historic Beverly Hill street address.

“It’s so colorful,” Senior Claudia Wu said, her eyes wide with excitement. “Because it’s so modern and has such a nice appearance, I just think it adds to our school spirit.”

The first day of school initially was planned for Monday, Aug. 28, but that start date was delayed as a result of flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Most HISD schools — including Wisdom — 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.

Wisdom Principal Jonathan Trinh said the new facility did spring a few leaks during Hurricane Harvey’s heaviest rains. Thankfully, he said, two police officers and two custodians were stationed at the building during the storm. They were able to quickly address the issue — setting up buckets to catch the water and mopping up any that spilled — and prevent major damage from occurring.

“Luckily, they saw it right away.” Trinh said, estimating that his dedicated staff members had saved the school tens of thousands of dollars in damages. “I don’t think we’d be open today if that didn’t happen.”

On Monday morning, Wisdom rolled out the red carpet — literally — for new and returning students and their parents. Cheerleaders joined with JROTC and school staff to welcome everyone to the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

Trinh said it was a great way to pump everyone up for the first day of school. He pointed to the school’s extensive array of integrated technology, its bright and airy feel and its common learning spaces as features that he believes will make the biggest difference for his students.

“It’s very welcoming,” he said.

Wisdom 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.