Bond Oversight Committee meets for fourth quarter update

Upbeat music blared through the speakers of the Northside High School dance studio as the Dancing Pantherettes showcased their new studio space for Bond Oversight Committee members.

Led by Northside Principal Cecilia Gonzales, Associate Principal Victor Okoli, and Construction Services Senior Manager Sizwe Lewis, the tour of the new Northside also featured the new fine arts wing, black box theater, TV production room, and culinary kitchen. 

After the tour, Northside culinary arts students served a buffet-style, made-from-scratch breakfast — including biscuits, scones, eggs, bacon, sausage, and fruit — to showcase their magnet for culinary arts, hotel management, and media. 

“As of the end of December 2019, the entire 2012 Bond Program was at 89 percent. That’s up 4 percent from our last report,” HISD General Manager of Construction Andreas Peeples said, providing a progress report to members as they ate breakfast. “The last four schools are in the thick of things right now.”  

The Bond Oversight Committee is an independent citizens’ committee charged with monitoring performance and progress program and ensuring funds are spent appropriately. Oversight meetings are held quarterly with members receiving reports on construction progress, finances, community engagement and minority- and women-owned business participation. 

Just four 2012 Bond high schools — Northside, Lamar, Austin, and Bellaire — remain under active construction as part of their original scope of work. 

Construction at Austin High School is 66 percent complete, with window installation and interior work in progress. He added that construction at Bellaire High School is 30 percent complete, with steel erection expected to finish by the end of this month. 

Renovation work continues at Lamar High School, with demolition of the library and JROTC wings underway, Peeples said, noting that the project is 90 percent complete. Construction at Northside High School is 98 percent complete, with punch list items now being addressed, he said. 

Peeples also updated the committee on four major realignment projects, noting that the new pool and natatorium at Milby High School would open in the coming days, while similar projects at Yates and Washington high schools were slated for completion later this spring. Another major realignment project — the new fine arts wing at Westbury — is set to open this fall. 

Bond Oversight Committee Member Phoebe Tudor asked how individual projects managed their budgets. 

“You’re coming toward the end, really,” Tudor said. “There always has to be a bit that says whether each project came in on budget, under budget, or over budget.” 

Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby said all projects have been completed within their allotted budgets. Construction Services Officer Derrick Sanders said $20 million already had been saved with the funds re-directed to safety and security, and an additional $5 million is expected to be redirected to safety and security in the coming weeks.