The atmosphere was festive and joyful at Hilliard Elementary School on Thursday morning, as students and staff gathered to welcome guests, and celebrate the grand re-opening of their beloved campus, which was heavily damaged last year in Hurricane Harvey.
Hilliard students and staff spent last school year at the former Fonwood Early Childhood Center to allow crews time to repair and renovate their flood-damaged campus. The school officially moved back to their refurbished building over the summer, in time for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
“We are so excited to be on our home campus,” Hilliard Principal Erika Kimble said. “We are back, and we are thriving.”
Since Hurricane Harvey, the school — including all classrooms, the library, and the gym — has been completely restored, as have the campus grounds. Additionally, a new retention pond and extensive storm drainage system have been added to prevent future flooding.
“Before the storm hit last August, this school was full of promise, and then everything came to a screeching halt, as the water in this room and throughout this school reached as high as four feet in some places,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “While Hurricane Harvey may have destroyed many things in its path, the one thing it could not destroy is the pride, love, and joy that this community has for its school and students.”
As part of the renovation, crews removed and replaced all porous surfaces below the four-foot water line, including cabinets, wood surfaces, vinyl floor tiles, and gym flooring and impact pads. The building was also professionally cleaned and sanitized and underwent extensive inspections to ensure it was safe and ready to welcome students and staff. The school also received new furniture, classroom supplies, and education materials.
“Today I’m excited to say, ‘I’ve returned home,’” Hilliard fifth-grade student Gabriela Polk said. “The best part is being able to experience the last year of elementary school at the school I love.”
Guests at the event enjoyed music from the Forest Brook Middle School Drumline and heard from HISD Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones, State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, and U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who presented the school with a Certificate of Recognition.
“We are blessed to have the support of the community and so many who worked to bring this building back,” Skillern-Jones said. “This school is much more than a building. It’s a home away from home for our students.”
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