HISD Board of Education approves contract for construction of four Harvey-damaged schools

The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday approved a construction contract for the rebuilding of four elementary schools — Braeburn, Scarborough, Kolter, and Mitchell — severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Trustees authorized district officials to negotiate and execute a Construction Manager-At-Risk — more commonly known as CMAR — contract with Satterfield & Pontikes Construction. A CMAR contract requires the contractor to commit to completing a project within a guaranteed maximum price. Though that price has not yet been negotiated, the agenda item states that the total cost of the project is not to exceed the project budget.

“This is a step in the right direction for these school communities,” said Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby. “I’m excited to see work start to get the students back onto their home campuses that will be safer and even better-equipped to provide a 21st century learning experience.”

Trustees voted in December to rebuild the schools at their current sites after facilities assessments found significant property damage, as well as a strong need to raise the elevation of the buildings to prevent potential future flood damage. The cost to replace the schools is estimated at $126 million, which would come from a combination of the operations reserves and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) funds.

The schools could be completed and open to students as early as 2020.

Also on Thursday, the board passed a resolution to pay hourly employees for work days missed as a result of inclement weather throughout the Houston area on Jan. 16 and 17. While salaried employees have been paid as usual for the pay period encompassing those days, and schools are making up the instructional time by increasing the length of the school day by 10 minutes until the end of the school year, these employees will not have the opportunity to work two other days to compensate for the days the district was closed.

The resolution trustees approved recites a public purpose for paying the group of employees that includes certain district bus drivers and other transportation workers, hourly food service workers, and hourly custodians. That purpose is for the district to demonstrate support of its hourly employees, enhance hourly employee morale, and support the retention of hourly employees by paying them for the two days HISD was closed.

The board voted to postpone voting on two agenda items related to being able to execute a reduction in force of teachers and other campus-based employees, as well as certain central office employees who hold term and continuing contracts. In the upcoming school year, staffing at the campus level and within central office departments will be impacted by budget and staffing changes aimed at increasing equity across the district. Changes in funding models will impact individual campuses differently. Some campuses will lose staff, necessitating a reduction in force, while other campuses will gain staff.

The need for a reduction in staff in the upcoming school year is also due to the anticipated reduction in revenues because of the potential decline in property values as a result of Hurricane Harvey. A decline in property value will decrease district revenue from property taxes.

Trustees will consider the measure during its regular March meeting.