For Principal Rita Graves, it is impossible for her to pick a favorite part of the construction project at Lamar High School.
The $122 million project, part of the 2012 Bond Program, brings several improvements to the campus, including a new, state-of-the-art academic wing, renovations to its historic original building, and enhancements to the athletic fields.
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.
Lamar High School 11th-grader Mackenzie Wilson is an active student. She plays volleyball and serves as student body president while also working on her International Baccalaureate diploma. After graduation, she hopes to study pathology or constitutional law.
Although she is confident in her academic endeavors, Wilson said it was easy to get lost in the crowd at Lamar — a sprawling campus home to about 3,000 students.
But when the school introduced its academic neighborhoods concept at the start of this school year, everything changed.
Gathered outside Lamar High School’s new main entrance, cheerleaders, Rangerettes, and the color guard shook their pompoms to the beat of the music played by the band, welcoming students back to school.
Inside, the hum of conversation filled the grand hall as hundreds of students peered around the two-story room, admiring the tall glass walls and massive, blue staircase, as they waited for the first bell to ring.
“The kids walked in wide-eyed saying, ‘It’s beautiful,’” Lamar Principal Rita Graves said, recalling how eager students had been to see the school during last week’s Texan Prep Days. “They’re just really excited to be learning in such a cool place.”
In 2017, Lamar High School celebrated its 80th anniversary with a groundbreaking ceremony. Now the school’s construction has reached nearly 80 percent completion, with doors of the school’s new academic building opening to students for the 2019-2020 school year.
Both painting and flooring in the gymnasium is underway along with the installation of first- and second-floor ceilings, culinary and dining equipment, and joining the new building addition’s HVAC to the existing facility.
Phased renovations to the existing facility are also in progress and an enclosed second-story skybridge connecting the two buildings is set for completion in August.
HISD Bond Oversight Committee members toured the new Wharton Dual Language Academy during their quarterly meeting Tuesday, getting an inside look at the building that opened its doors to students just four months ago.
Wharton Principal Jennifer Day and HISD Construction Services Senior Manager Meredith Smith led the group around the colorful building, making stops in classrooms, science and computer labs, and art and music rooms, as well as the cafeteria, gym, and library.
Driving down Westheimer Road near River Oaks, it’s easy to see progress on Lamar High School’s new building, as crews have surpassed the two-thirds mark and are on track to complete construction this summer.
The $122.9 million building was completely enclosed in January. Electrical wiring, ceiling grid, and drywall installation are in progress and HVAC installation is set to begin this week.
“I’m really pleased with the progress being made each day,” Project Manager Marvin Stone said. “It’s going to be a beautiful facility.”
Rita Graves has been selected as the new principal for Lamar High School. Graves has served HISD for 20 years, starting as a first-grade teacher and reading specialist at Poe Elementary School. She then served as magnet coordinator and dean of magnet students at Pin Oak Middle School, a foreign language magnet school and National Blue Ribbon School, where she started a Chinese language program to complement the existing language program. Graves served as principal of Roberts Elementary School for six years and Pin Oak for three years. She has served on the U.S. Department of Education’s NAEP Principals’ Panel since 2014 and also participates on the NAEP Transcript Study Advisory Panel. Graves currently serves on the board of Texas Association of Secondary School Principals and is the former president of the Houston Association of School Administrators. Graves graduated from the University of Houston and was named Outstanding Young Alumna in 1998.