Kashmere High School stakeholders gathered Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of their new 21st century campus, which underwent major renovations as part of HISD’s voter-approved 2012 Bond Program.
Students, staff, alumni, and various dignitaries crowded into the large, brightly lit, central commons area as the nationally acclaimed Kashmere Alumni Reunion Stage Band joined with the dance team and cheerleaders to kick off the festivities.
“This is a renaissance for Kashmere,” HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza said, challenging students to use the new facility to take their success to the next level and pledging to provide the school and community with more educational resources and opportunities going forward. “This new building provides a different outlook and a better learning environment for current and future students.”
The $17 million project called for a modern and secure main entrance, renovated classrooms and corridors with plenty of windows that provide abundant natural light, and the new commons area — an upgraded and newly enclosed central courtyard that serves as a large flexible space suitable for year-round use.
HISD Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones recalled visiting Kashmere when she was first elected as a trustee. The school, she said, was dark and drab, which seemed to be mirrored in the outlook of students.
“When I come here in the middle of the day now, I see kids enjoying their space. I see them respecting their space and making good use of their space, and that makes me proud,” said Skillern-Jones, who represents the district in which Kashmere is located. “When our kids walk into a building that is equipped with the tools that they need to learn, they understand that we are willing to invest in them, and it inspires them to do their best.”
The updated facility also includes an expanded JROTC area, a relocated and renovated dance studio, new bleachers in the gym, an expanded weight room, an upgraded cafeteria and snack bar area with modern seating, and new administrative offices.
The renovated school officially opened its doors to students at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
“This is a special occasion for us,” Kashmere High School Principal Nancy Blackwell said. “We have a newly renovated facility, and we hope that all of this transfers right into our students’ minds, and they feel the excitement too.”
During the ceremony, Blackwell presented a framed photograph of the school to the family of Conrad O. Johnson, world-renowned musician and former band director who led the Kashmere Stage Band to national acclaim.
Several local, state, and national elected officials also attended the celebration, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, who spoke to the crowd and presented Blackwell with an American Flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol Building.
Others who turned out in support of Kashmere and participated in the grand opening ceremony include State Rep. Harold Dutton, Houston City Council Member Jerry Davis, and HISD Trustees Wanda Adams, Anne Sung, Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, and Sue Deigaard.
“Kashmere High School is what launched who I am today,” Adams said. “I am so honored to say I am a ram.”
Kashmere is among 40 schools being renovated or rebuilt as part of the 2012 Bond Program. Half of all projects are now finished and open to students. Once all work is finished, HISD will boast of 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.