Northside HS classroom renovations lead campus into 21st century

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When Northside High School alumnus Machell Blackwell walked through the doorway on the third floor of her alma matter, she said she felt like she was walking through time.

On one side of the well-worn building, it seemed dark and confined — even a bit dated. But on the other, hallways were lighter, classrooms were brighter, and there was a colorful, collaborative space where students could gather to work in small groups.

“To me, I feel like I was walking through a time machine,” said a smiling Blackwell, who also serves as a Northside PTO recruiter and member of both the Northside Project Advisory Team and Shared Decision-Making Committee. “I just walked into the 21st century.”

Northside is one of 40 schools, including 29 high schools, being renovated or rebuilt across the district as part of the 2012 Bond Program.

The $66.4 million, multi-phase construction project calls for two new additions featuring modern spaces for science, culinary arts, and performing arts, as well as major renovations to the school’s historic main building, built in 1928.

“I’m excited for the students and the community,” Northside Principal Cecilia Gonzales said during a recent tour of the refurbished classrooms. “I can’t wait to see what it’s going to look like when it’s all finished. The students and community — they deserve this.”

Contractors are now wrapping up renovations to third-floor classrooms, restrooms, and other common areas. Students and staff will begin using the new spaces when they return from winter break on Jan. 8.

Next up will be renovations to the other half of the third-floor classrooms, as well as renovations to the second floor, project officials said. They noted that work on the new additions is continuing, with the new culinary wing set to be completed next spring.

The overall project is slated for completion by the end of 2018.

Northside Alumnus and PAT member Carmen Nuncio said she wishes the district had allocated more money to the school so that it could have had a more complete renovation or rebuild. But she said even within the limited budget, the work done so far had been a major improvement.

“It looks 100 percent better than what it did,” Nuncio said.

Construction is currently underway at roughly two dozen campuses across the district. Once complete, HISD will feature one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the country.

Follow @Build_HISD on Twitter for the latest updates on the 2012 Bond Program and school construction across the district.