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.
Following a path of green and white balloons, dozens of Austin High School students and staff shuffled into the auditorium to find seats for the big event — the premiere of Austin’s virtual grand opening.
Clad in green attire and masks, students and staff gathered for the physically distanced watch party hosted in the recently renovated school auditorium, where a giant screen was set up to display the celebration.
Among the sea of green was senior Zuri Mendoza Gonzalez, who sat front and center in a ruffled green and white dress. She said she was excited to represent Austin as the master of ceremonies in the virtual grand opening and wanted to be close to the action.
“It was nice to be part of such a historical event, especially as the master of ceremonies,” Mendoza Gonzalez said. “It was very special, an honor really.”
Built as part of the 2012 Bond program, Austin’s $80.9 million, 288,628-square-foot campus features a three-story academic wing, two gyms, and an outdoor courtyard. The virtual grand opening showcased these areas, bringing them to life with student-led segments and performances.
Lined up on the hardcourt, Kolter Elementary School students eagerly awaited their turn to grab fun signs and silly glasses and squeeze between columns of red, white, and blue balloons for the perfect photo op.
On the far end of the court, the students — all clad in blue t-shirts emblazoned with a large “60” — chased each other around and danced to music booming through nearby speakers.
The spirited atmosphere was part of celebration day, which included a watch party for the virtual grand opening and 60thanniversary of the newly built school.
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.