Neymar Gonzalez could barely contain his excitement.
The Braeburn Elementary School third-grader vigorously clapped his hands as a five-minute countdown launched on the big screen at the front of his classroom.
“Yay! Five minutes until showtime!” Gonzalez squealed. “I’m so excited!”
Similar excitement was felt throughout the school on Friday afternoon as students celebrated the premiere of their school’s virtual grand opening — a specially themed “Bobcat News” segment — with cupcakes and classroom watch parties.
The virtual event officially marked the beginning of a new chapter for Braeburn, which was among four HISD elementary schools that had to be demolished and rebuilt after sustaining significant damage during Hurricane Harvey.
With the first phase of construction 85 percent complete, Bellaire High School is on track to debut three new wings — academic, fine arts, and physical education — when students return for the 2021-2022 school year.
Crews are installing technology in the three-story academic wing, which is nearly complete and expected to be outfitted with furniture in June after students depart for the summer.
Carpet has been installed in the auditorium and ceiling tiles and flooring are now being installed in the remainder of the fine arts wing. Epoxy flooring in the natatorium pool also is underway in the physical education wing.
When Nathaniel Melvin began teaching art at Westbury High School, he was assigned a classroom with no sink. For someone who specializes in building large sculptures and technical art pieces, that was an issue.
He installed one, but even then, the classroom never quite functioned the way he needed it to. There wasn’t enough cabinetry to hold supplies.
Melvin now teaches in a “visual arts studio” specifically designed to meet his students’ needs. Ample power is available via ceiling cables at each art table. There is plenty of built-in storage space. Most importantly — there is not one, but three sinks.
Austin High School seniors Daniel Miranda and Jesus Cantu greeted each other as they made their way through their school’s dining commons, stopping to soak in their new surroundings before the first bell rang.
“It looks futuristic,” Miranda said, first looking up at the contemporary lighting and then down below at the dining tabletops featuring the school’s mustang mascot.
“Futuristic?” Cantu asked with a laugh. “I think you mean modern.”
There are many features that Principal Orlando Reyna finds impressive about the newly constructed Austin High School, but the contemporary courtyard is by far one of his favorites.
“It just looks amazing,” Reyna said, smiling at the thought of it. “I anticipate it’s going to be a popular space for us to utilize and for students to congregate.”
After a semester-long delay due to pandemic-related manpower and delivery issues, Austin High School is finally set to open its doors to students on Wednesday, Jan. 6, following their return from winter break.
These certainly aren’t your grandmothers’ schools.
At least that’s how Dan Bankhead, General Manager for Facilities Design, describes the newly redesigned schools built under the 2012 Bond Program.
A sharp contrast from the original buildings, classrooms are now bright, spacious, and flooded with natural light. Bold colors adorn the floors and walls. Shared spaces are reminiscent of trendy hotel lobbies and cafés.
Bellaire High School took a significant step toward the next phase of construction last month when the city approved a specific use permit allowing for the build of the high school’s new baseball and softball fields at 6300 Avenue B.
Abatement and demolition of the former Gordon Elementary School will begin soon to make way for the new fields.
The athletic fields are part of the 2012 Bond Program, which called for a rebuild of Bellaire’s existing school, which has been in use since 1955. Design plans for the $141.5 million, multi-phased project included the relocation of the baseball and softball fields to a site about two miles away to maximize space on the existing 18-acre campus.
Natural light and a central “Main Street” hallway are the hallmarks of the new Bellaire High School, which is now 57 percent complete.
Part of the 2012 Bond Program, the project is on track to be completed in time for the 2021-2022 school year. The completion of Bellaire will close out the massive bond program, which included the renovation or rebuilding of 40 schools, including 29 high schools, across the district.