Gathered outside Lamar High School’s new main entrance, cheerleaders, Rangerettes, and the color guard shook their pompoms to the beat of the music played by the band, welcoming students back to school.
Inside, the hum of conversation filled the grand hall as hundreds of students peered around the two-story room, admiring the tall glass walls and massive, blue staircase, as they waited for the first bell to ring.
“The kids walked in wide-eyed saying, ‘It’s beautiful,’” Lamar Principal Rita Graves said, recalling how eager students had been to see the school during last week’s Texan Prep Days. “They’re just really excited to be learning in such a cool place.”
Part of the 2012 Bond Program, Lamar’s $122 million project features a state-of-the-art facility with renovations preserving the original building’s historically significant architecture. Work is set to wrap later this fall.
The new academic wing was built perpendicular to the existing building and features four large, flexible learning areas, or “neighborhoods,” to facilitate the school’s interdisciplinary and project-based approach. Each neighborhood houses 200 or fewer students.
Lamar Algebra Teacher Alex Ryan said the neighborhood structure had not previously been implemented in a large school. Lamar has about 3,000 students.
“We’re innovating how it should be done,” Ryan said. “I’m excited to lead that charge.”
Graves said the new facility allows students to experience the best of both worlds — capitalizing on the personalized instruction offered by smaller schools without sacrificing the benefits offered by a comprehensive high school.
The new school also features a large covered transit center, black box theater and band-instruction area, natatorium, school store, and large banquet and food preparation space for the school’s culinary arts program.
Tenth-grader Kyla Vargas said she likes the modern look of the new building.
“I’m new to the district but from what I’ve seen so far, I can say HISD cares a lot about their students,” Vargas said.
More than 85 percent of all school construction is now complete. Once all 2012 Bond projects are done, 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.