A day before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Tiffany
Irving and her son Grant eagerly delivered school supplies to his kindergarten
classroom at Mitchell Elementary, just south of Hobby Airport.
Little did they know then that Grant’s supplies — along with
the rest of his building and three other elementary schools across the district
— would be destroyed in the coming days as the storm dumped unprecedented
amounts of rain on the city.
Unfortunately, the damage wasn’t limited to the school. The Irving’s
home just around the corner from the school also flooded.
Kolter Elementary School Principal Julianne Dickinson began
to feel the weight of Monday morning before the sun went down the day before.
For Dickinson, Monday was different for a few reasons — the
start of in-person instruction, the return of students to classrooms after eight
months, and the required use of masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the most special reason was that it was her students’
first day in their newly constructed school.
Collaborative learning spaces and abundant natural light are
the hallmarks of a trio of Houston Independent School District high schools now
being recognized for their innovative designs.
The new buildings for Madison High School and Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center, as well as the addition and renovations to Northside High School, are three of just 48 projects across the state being recognized by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).
“These awards are a testament to our focus on our students,”
HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “We are proud to provide them
with beautiful, functional spaces that foster learning and excitement. At the
end of the day, it’s always about the kids.”
For more than 80 years, the red-bricked Austin High School
has been a mainstay in the Eastwood community. With construction nearing
completion, the new school now strikes a balance of the past and present.
The $80.9 million project features modern classrooms,
flexible learning spaces, and sound and lighting upgrades to the existing
auditorium. The Art Deco-influenced façade also has been preserved and
refurbished as a part of the project.
“This school has been here for more than 80 years. It was
important to keep a part of this building that has been present in this
community for so long,” Austin Principal Steve Guerrero said. “The entire
building is just phenomenal. It feels very grand with lots of natural light.
Every single part of the building is exciting.”
For the past three years, Carla Garcia and her 9-year-old daughter
Kaitlyn commuted about 25 minutes every morning to get to Mitchell Elementary
School, despite living just across the street from the school.
The original Mitchell was damaged beyond repair when
Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, forcing students and staff to move about nine
miles away to the former Caldwell Elementary School — their temporary home for
the past three years.
With the new and improved Mitchell nearly complete, Garcia
and Kaitlyn will once again be able to walk to school in the mornings.
The new Austin High School is now scheduled to open in
January 2021 — a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school was originally scheduled to open in August 2020.
HISD Construction Services Officer Derrick Sanders said the new timeline was
due to a three-month delay in the school’s furniture shipment and manpower
shortages caused by mandated social distancing requirements resulting from the
Austin will remain at its current temporary learning center
located across South Lockwood Drive until the new facility opens.