Bellaire High School brimmed with excitement on Saturday as alumni — some of whom hadn’t walked the halls in more than 60 years — joined with current students to say goodbye to their beloved campus.
With the school set for demolition this summer, Cardinals flocked from far and wide for the Final Building Walk Through, co-hosted by the Bellaire Parent-Teacher Organization and the Alumni and Friends of Bellaire High School.
The smell of freshly made popcorn and thunderous cheering filled the hallways of Scarborough Elementary School as overhead announcements reminded students there was just “thirty seconds until showtime.”
“Ah! I’m so excited!” one student yelled from his classroom.
“This is going to be so cool!” hollered another.
The excitement was focused on the Scarborough Elementary School Virtual Grand Opening, which students and staff were celebrating with classroom watch parties.
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.
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.
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.”