Students, faculty, and community members gathered Tuesday in the Austin High School auditorium to learn about the construction plan for their new facility, as well as the logistics of their relocation to a temporary campus.
Austin High School is being re-built as part of HISD’s voter-approved 2012 Bond Program. The $79.6 million project calls for a new facility that accommodates 1,800 to 2,000 students and preserves the architecturally significant structure of the current building.
To accommodate construction and ensure safety, students and staff will relocate to a temporary campus — made up of 15 temporary buildings offering all of the school’s current academic and athletic programs — along S. Lockwood Drive. Students will report to the temporary campus, which is directly behind the current school, when they return from winter break on Jan. 8.
“I know there are a lot of mixed feelings,” Austin Principal Steven Guerrero said during the meeting. “It’s a sacrifice we all have to make. But once complete, we will be the proud owners of a new 21st-century building.”
Stakeholders who attended the community meeting got a digital sneak peek of the interior and exterior of the new school via architectural videos and a 3-D computer simulation. They also were briefed on the construction and design plans for the new campus.
Project officials said the new school includes modern, open spaces allowing for plenty of daylight, better traffic flow in and around the campus, clusters of classrooms to allow for a neighborhood learning concept, and a new, secure, defined main entry off of Jefferson Street.
The interior of the eastern most building facing Dumble Street will be completely remodeled while preserving its exterior historic façade and main entry. Much of the remaining two-thirds of the campus will be demolished and replaced with a multi-story building housing most of the school’s academics.
Construction of the new school is set to be completed by the end of 2019, with the new school opening to students in 2020. During that time, students and staff will be housed in the temporary campus that will offer all current academic and athletic programs.
Following the presentation, attendees asked questions about topics ranging from the establishment of a construction trades apprentice program for students to potential traffic congestion to the loss of performing arts areas at the temporary campus.
Principal Guerrero assured the crowd that he would reach out to surrounding schools and facilities to inquire about the use of neighboring performance spaces. Though band and theater students will share space at the temporary campus, Guerrero stressed that he would be working with fine arts teachers to ensure all students have the space and materials they need to be successful.
Austin junior and theater student Izabella Klunk said that although she’s not thrilled about losing stage space at the temporary campus, she is looking forward to the new upgrades for the auditorium. Design plans call for upgrades to lighting and sound equipment in the Austin auditorium.
“That’s the main thing that gives me hope for the theater and drama department,” Klunk said. “The lighting and sound could be much better.”
Austin faculty member Theresa Guerra said she was pleased to see some of the students voicing their concerns.
“It’s great that students asked about the programs they’re interested in,” Guerra said.
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