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Reaching five-stories high, the stairwells at DeBakey High School for Health Professions were filled with students making their way to their classrooms on Monday morning for the first day of school.
DeBakey Principal Agnes Perry said she had been looking forward to having her students back, and both her parents and students also seemed excited about the day.
“I’ve been waiting for this day to happen,” Perry said. “Our teachers are ready.”
DeBakey was founded in 1972 in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine as the first health-focused high school in the nation. It continues to serve as a model for school districts and medical centers across the country, and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 20 high schools in the nation.
Located on the western edge of the Texas Medical Center, the $67 million, 198,000-square-foot facility can hold up to 1,000 students and 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 multi-purpose room, and a college center. The top level of the facility houses a gymnasium, fitness center, black box theater, art room, and music room to be used in conjunction with the Texas Medical Center Orchestra. Outdoor space on the top floor of the building and a terrace on each level help make up for limited ground space at the new site.
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 DeBakey — 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.
Senior Alfredo Moreno said he spent the last two weeks volunteering at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which was established as a shelter for victims of Hurricane Harvey. He said he was amazed by the volume of donations the shelter received in support of those who lost everything as a result of the storm.
“Right now, compassion is of the utmost importance,” Moreno said. “I’m so glad our school has been so supportive of everyone.”
DeBakey senior Piya Malhan said she was amazed by the strength of the DeBakey community and knew it would impact her last year at the school.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be the example,” Malhan said. “I’m really looking forward to making this year memorable.”
DeBakey 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.