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A sea of red flooded the main entrance of Furr High School on Friday morning as the cheerleaders, Sparkle Dancers — dressed in red and white uniforms — and band pepped up the crowd in celebration of the school’s building dedication ceremony.
Music and chants echoed through the air, and lush trees and landscaping lined the length of the brightly colored 182,000-square-foot-building, offering an ornate backdrop to a long red ribbon stretched across the building’s main walkway.
“Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a high school that empowers students to tackle environmental injustice and becomes the central green hub of their community,” said Furr Interim Principal Rosa Hernandez to attendees. “Imagine spaces filled with student voices, trust, school spirit, and a flexible learning environment.” She pointed to the new building, saying “That’s what we have here.”
The new Furr High School, which is a part of HISD’s 2012 Bond Program, is one of 29 high schools being renovated or rebuilt throughout the district. The $56 million facility formally opened its door to students for the 2017-2018 school year.
“This is a very proud moment in Furr’s history,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Holly Flynn-Vilaseca, who spoke on behalf of Trustee Diana Dávila. “It’s a reminder of what’s possible and what we can accomplish together. I want to thank all of the people who voted for the 2012 Bond.”
The three-story facility, designed to enhance the school’s science, technology, engineering, and arts programs, includes flexible, vibrantly colored learning areas with moveable furniture and adjustable sliding glass doors to accommodate changing needs of students and staff in classrooms.
“This is truly a 21st-century learning place,” said HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan. “May you learn, grow, and thrive here.”
Additional building features include an auditorium, two gymnasiums, fine arts spaces, flexible seating areas, and two exterior courtyards. The campus is also home to a petting zoo — filled with goats, ducks, rabbits, snakes, and other animals — to support the agricultural science curriculum, and a garden that will produce items such as citrus, hickory, and pecans.
“When I heard about the new building, I couldn’t believe it,” said Futures Academy and National Honor Society Student Caleb Elam. “The structure, colors, and windows put a smile on my face.”
Elam was later announced as a recipient of the 2018 Student Heroes Award by the Texas State Board of Education and Furr Coach Cornell Gray. In addition, the Furr JROTC Drill Team, which was ranked fifth in the nation at a recent competition, performed a precision routine showcasing their skills.
Also joining the day’s festivities were U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, who spoke via telephone from her office in Washington, D.C.; State Reps. Ana Hernandez and Carol Alvarado; City Councilman Robert Gallegos; Harris County Constable Chris Diaz; and a representative from the office of County Commissioner Jack Morman. Hernandez and Jackson-Lee’s offices presented the school with state flags that had flown over the Texas Capitol, while Morman’s office gifted a Certificate of Recognition.
“It’s bittersweet, as there was a charm to the old building,” said CTE Agriculture and Personalized Learning Teacher David Salazar. “It’s nice that we have a new facility though.”
Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to an orange tree planting ceremony, which symbolizes the school’s green ambassador program. Guests were later taken on a tour of the school’s dining commons, STEAM lab, gymnasium, makerspace for craft projects, and exterior green agricultural space. They were able to view student projects from the digital media, health and agricultural science, and futures academy departments.
Construction is underway at roughly two dozen campuses throughout the district. More than 50 percent of all 2012 Bond projects are now complete and open to students, and that number is expected to rise to 80 percent by the end of 2018. Once all projects are finished, HISD will boast one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in America.
Follow @Build_HISD on Twitter for the latest updates on the 2012 Bond Program and school construction across the district.