Tag Archives: business operations

Kolter ES teachers adjust to teaching in new school without students

When walking into Jennifer Heemer’s fifth grade classroom at Kolter Elementary School, it’s hard not to get excited about learning.

The walls are adorned with colorful decorations, including a poster reminding her students to “think outside the box” and class photos from her 21 years of teaching. Natural light from a wall of large windows fills the room and illuminates the two rows of perfectly-arranged desks.

There’s only one thing missing. Students.

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With cafeterias closed, Nutrition Services finds innovative ways to feed students

A group of Windswept Gardens Apartments residents made their way through the complex’s tree-lined central courtyard, which sits just a few hundred yards from the speeding cars and unending traffic of the Southwest Freeway.

Clad in face masks and carefully keeping their distance from each other, the families gathered around a blue tent where HISD’s Nutrition Services staff were handing out student summer meals in the afternoon sun.

The district has long offered a free summer meal program for students throughout the greater Houston community. In previous years, children would come to local schools to eat. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the game, prompting Nutrition Services to look for innovative and safe ways to feed kids without a cafeteria.

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As construction nears completion, Austin HS looks to the future

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.”

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Principals of schools damaged by Hurricane Harvey excited to return ‘home’

A new school year typically brings a mix of emotions for Kolter Elementary School Principal Julie Dickinson. Feelings of excitement mingled with the hope that everything will run smoothly.

As Dickinson readies for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, she is once again experiencing those same feelings, but this time they’re tinged with the promise of new beginnings.

“There was a huge loss to get where we are today,” Dickinson said. “But I can’t think of a more deserving community.”

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National Wildlife Federation grant deadlines approaching

The National Wildlife Federation is offering two grant opportunities for HISD schools. Applications are due Monday, June 15.

One grant focuses on secondary schools interested in developing nature-based solutions to community stormwater runoff or flooding. The second is open to all grade levels and emphases energy literacy.

Energy and Sustainability Quality Assurance Analyst Stephanie Walker said schools should apply despite the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Austin HS to open in January 2021 due to COVID-19

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 COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin will remain at its current temporary learning center located across South Lockwood Drive until the new facility opens.

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HISD launches new programs to build on success of community food distribution

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
Summer Meals 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
  • Participating schools available at HoustonISD.org/SummerMeals
Fresh Bus Produce Delivery
  • Program runs through July
  • Daily delivery to rotating community locations
  • Produce is free for families at 68 designated schools
  • Participating schools and rotating delivery sites available at HoustonISD.org/FreshBus
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Customer Care continues to take calls during district closure

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.”

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Lamar HS construction nears completion

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.

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Scarborough ES construction 94 percent complete

Construction at the new Scarborough Elementary School is steadily progressing, despite the district being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work on the campus has continued, as allowable under the public health guidelines, with a reduction of the workforce to adhere to social distancing requirements.

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.

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