Bond Oversight Committee hears update on school construction, plans for new bond program

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The Houston Independent School District has opened nine new facilities since the start of the year and is on track to open 15 more by January 2019, according to a report given to the Bond Oversight Committee on Tuesday.

In total, the district will have completed and opened two dozen new facilities between January 2018 and January 2019, bringing the program’s overall completion rate to 80 percent by the end of the year.

“We’ve had a very productive first quarter,” said HISD Construction Services Officer Derrick Sanders during the group’s regular quarterly meeting, which was held at Wilson Montessori. “We’ve passed the halfway mark, and I’m real pleased with the progress.”

Five new campuses opened to students for the first time on Jan. 8–Sharpstown, Scarborough, and North Forest High schools, as well as Robinson Elementary, which underwent a major renovation after being damaged during Hurricane Harvey. The district also opened a new temporary campus to house Austin High School students and staff during the rebuilding of their school.

In March, Parker Elementary School opened its new building, and Westbury High School, Garden Oaks Montessori, and Wilson Montessori opened new additions.

Schools that are scheduled for completion by the start of the 2018-2019 school year include Energy Institute, Washington and Yates high schools, High School for Law and Justice, Lawson Middle School, Askew and Hilliard elementary schools, Young Women’s College Preparatory, Eastwood and Pilgrim academies, and Garden Oaks and Wilson Montessori schools.

An additional six schools are slated to open in January 2019 when students return from winter break.

Following a full status report from Sanders, the committee heard from HISD Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby, who discussed the district’s intention to begin planning for a possible bond referendum this November. The proposed referendum is scheduled to be discussed further with trustees during a Board of Education workshop scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

“Plans are underway for a new capital improvement plan schedule to be implemented over the next 20 years,” Busby said. “A bond is possible in November of this year and after that, a new bond every four years.”

The district currently is reviewing two options for a possible November referendum, and safety and security is at the forefront of both.

The first option, which has a cost of $954 million, focuses on replacing 18 schools, creating security vestibules at all campuses, upgrading building automation systems and district technology, and replacing school buses.

The second option, which has a cost of $1.45 billion, includes the above items, as well as two new relief schools, a new CTE high school for the southern portion of the district, a replacement district stadium and fieldhouse, a new professional development and training facility, and districtwide energy efficient lighting upgrades.

New relief schools will be strategically driven by student growth data, while facility repair and replacement will be driven by facility age and needs, number of temporary buildings on-site, and cost of maintaining existing buildings.

District administration plans to hold community meetings and meet with various stakeholder groups in the coming weeks and months to share the data and gather feedback.

“I’m a big believer that this type of work – building schools – is extremely important,” BOC member Phoebe Tudor said. ”The track record for this bond program and what’s been accomplished is so great. I think that should give people confidence that HISD has the right team in place, and they know what they’re doing.”

Also on Tuesday, the oversight committee heard updates on the financial status of the 2012 Bond Program, which continues to maintain a AAA rating, and minority- and women-owned business enterprise participation rates, which continue to track above board-established goals.

Additionally, members were informed about communications and community engagement efforts, including the team’s work to provide bond principals with targeted updates and stakeholder communications. The team also continues to coordinate and cover project milestone celebrations and to promote and use the bond twitter account — @Build_HISD — to distribute updates and information to the community.

HISD’s $1.89 billion bond program was approved by Houston voters in 2012. In addition to campus-based projects, the program also includes work benefiting students across the district, including $100 million in technology upgrades, $44.7 million to replace regional fieldhouses and improve athletics facilities, $35 million to renovate middle school restrooms, and $17.3 million for safety and security improvements.

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