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.
Under a cloudy sky, Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan
greeted Westbury High School students and their parents on the first day of the
But instead of navigating blue and grey painted halls that
would normally be crowded with students, she and new Principal Jerri Nixon were
busy handing out pre-packed meals to Westbury families in the parking lot.
As students across the district return to school virtually,
HISD Nutrition Services is offering daily curbside pickup for breakfast and
lunch meals at 86 strategically located schools, including Westbury.
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
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.
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.”
Rucker Elementary School Principal Eileen Puente knew that
her staff would need to rethink how they would engage with students following
Spring Break and the closure of HISD campuses due to COVID-19.
So, on Thursday, Puente and over 20 of her teachers and staff convened at Rucker with their vehicles, formed a parade, and drove through nearby streets and neighborhoods to check in with their students from a safe distance.
Like tens of thousands of other elementary school children across HISD, the 400-plus students, who call the southeast neighborhood school home, will not be returning to campus for several weeks due to intensifying precautions around the spread of COVID-19.
Parents flooded the Lantrip Elementary School cafeteria Thursday as they joined their children — clad in pilgrim hats, white bonnets, and colorful turkey headbands — for a nutritious Thanksgiving lunch.
The annual celebration hosted by HISD’s Nutrition Services has attracted thousands of families to school cafeterias for more than 50 years. This year’s menu included roasted turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, a fresh fruit medley, and ice cream.
“We get a ton of volunteers, but it takes everyone,” Lantrip Principal Magdalena Strickland said, noting that about half of the school’s 700 families participate in the Thanksgiving lunch each year. “When parents know you care for their kids, they’ll go above and beyond.”
HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan sat at a long white table in the Burnet Elementary School cafeteria on Monday, nibbling on a chicken biscuit and chatting with the students seated alongside her.
Gathered for breakfast on the first day of school, the conversation quickly turned into an impromptu Spanish lesson as students from the dual language school translated the menu — chicken biscuits, raisins, apple juice, and milk — into Spanish.
“Leche?” Lathan repeated carefully after hearing the Spanish word for milk. A wide smile then spread across her face. “You know what I like? Tres leches. And lot of it,” she said, laughing.
Construction on the new Mitchell Elementary School is
progressing as the concrete foundation and hollow core planks are now complete.
Crews have begun the erection of the structural steel and site paving is nearly complete.
The campus is one of four elementary schools — Braeburn,
Mitchell, Scarborough, and Kolter — being rebuilt as a result of damages
sustained in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey.
“Although Harvey tested our resiliency, it also created an
opportunity for our community to be blessed with a new school for our very
deserving students,” Mitchell Principal Elizabeth Castillo said. “We are
so eager as we watch the progress of our building. With the foundation
being poured, we know that our Mitchell 3.0 will be a beacon of hope as we work
to revitalize our community after Harvey.”
Construction continues at Kolter Elementary School with
structural steel of the new building nearly complete.
Crews will now begin the installation of both the first- and second-floor slabs. Exterior wall framing will begin next month.
“Watching the beams and framing come to life has made all
the difference,” Kolter Principal Julie Dickinson said. “It’s so exciting to
see a second floor and to begin to visualize learning spaces and common areas.
I can’t believe we’re less than a year away from moving into our new school