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.
As the school year wraps up, the Houston Independent School District is revving up its nutrition outreach efforts with the launch of curbside summer meals for students and the Fresh Bus produce delivery program.
The programs come on the heels of the district’s successful community food distribution initiative, which ran for nine weeks following HISD’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coordinated by HISD in partnership with the Houston Food Bank, the program, provided nearly 7 million pounds of food to more than 160,000 families during that time.
“When everything around us was shutting down due to the pandemic, it became essential for us to be there for our students and their families,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “I’m proud of the hard work and dedication that went into this effort. Remarkably, we were able to impact so many families.”
The district is aiming to build upon that success with the launch if it’s annual and state-mandated summer meals program, which begins June 1. Families will be able to pick up packaged student meals twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at one of 71 designated schools across the district. Families will receive several days’ worth of food per child.
HISD Meal Programs At a Glance
HISD Curbside Summer Meals
Begins June 1
Pick up on Mondays and Thursdays at 71 schools
Meals are free to ages 1-18
Proof of enrollment or birth certificate required for children not in the vehicle
Business Operations Customer Care Team Leader Johnetta
Branch has a new three-step routine when she arrives at her office — put on her
face mask, sanitize her hands, and have her temperature checked.
The district may be closed, she said, but there are still
employee and parent questions to be answered, payrolls to be processed,
maintenance requests to be filed, purchases to track, and fire and burglar
alarms to monitor.
“Fifty-six of us used to come in every day, but many are
parents and with schools and daycares closed, they aren’t able to come in,”
Branch said. “So now it’s five people working at one time to accomplish the
same tasks. I’m here to do whatever needs to be done.”
Construction at Lamar High School is continuing, as
allowable under the public health guidelines, with renovations to the original
building now 80 percent complete.
The renovation work, designed to preserve the building’s historically
significant architecture, included the construction of a new child care wing,
welcome center, and updated ROTC and Career and Technical Education classrooms.
The athletic fields — including football, baseball,
softball, soccer practice fields — and tennis courts also are underway.
Construction at the new Scarborough Elementary School is
steadily progressing, despite the district being closed due to the COVID-19
Work on the campus has continued, as allowable under the public
health guidelines, with a reduction of the workforce to adhere to social
The $23 million project is tracking at 94 percent
completion, with site work, paving, underground utilities, structural steel, roofing,
interior wall systems, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing installation
complete. Exterior wall systems and interior finishes are ongoing.
When Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan arrived at the
HISD Hexser T. Holliday Food Service Center, she was eager to tour facility
operations, but precautions had to be taken first.
Upon entering the facility, her temperature was taken just
footsteps inside the door — a safety precaution and clear sign of the times as
the world endures the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the weeks since our district closed, we’ve worked hard
to meet the needs of our community,” Lathan said. “This visit is a great
opportunity to get an up-close look at how the entire food distribution process
Feeding more than 10,000 families five days a week during a
pandemic is no easy task. It’s an effort that requires the collaboration of
multiple departments across the district to bring it all together.
In just over a month, HISD — working together with the
Houston Food Bank — has distributed 2 million pounds of food to more than
60,000 families. That range spans from March 14 through April 18.
“I appreciate the spotlight we’ve received, but it’s not
just us,” HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said, referencing the
child nutrition department she leads. “We couldn’t have accomplished this
without the help of Community Partnerships and HISD Police.”
With most of the country shut down in an attempt to flatten the COVID-19 curve, HISD’s Construction Services — designated an essential service — is continuing to work on school construction across the district.
HISD Construction General Manager Andreas Peeples said
construction is expected to continue as allowable under public health
guidelines but noted that required public health measures are affecting normal
“We must comply with requirements that individuals must remain
at least six feet from any other person,” Peeples said. “This is important, but
it does result in inefficiencies in mobilizing labor and materials and a
general reduction in labor forces.”
HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins will share her
experiences regarding emergency community feeding during a webinar sponsored by
food service publications.
Wiggins will participate in a panel discussion to explore
how school districts are utilizing different methods to provide nutritious
meals through the COVID-19 pandemic. The “K-12 Child Nutrition: Serving students and families during COVID-19” webinar will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 21.
The webinar is sponsored by the editorial teams of Nation’s
Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality, and Food Management magazines. She
will be joined by Minneapolis Public Schools Director of Culinary and Wellness
Services Bertrand Weber and Londonderry School District Director of Dining
Services Amanda Venezia.