Ready or Not? HISD To Open Eight New Schools

With less than a week until the start of classes, the Houston School District is scrambling to get eight brand-new schools ready for students. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the new facilities are the result of a 2002 bond election that's now resulted in a total of 28 new schools.

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At the new Briargrove Elementary just west of the Galleria area, workers are still putting the finishing touches on the nearly $17 million campus. HISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra is personally making sure the school is ready to open Monday.

"Anything still pending as far as the building itself?" "Everything is in pretty good shape. Of course, if it will stop raining" "I know, so you can finish the landscaping."

The original campus was built in 1957, but principal Martin Garza says with 860 students expected this school year, it was time for a new facility.

"Most buildings of that age suffer foundation cracks and cracks in the walls and cracks in the ceiling and so on. We did many repairs over the years and it just got to a point that we couldn't effectively do any more repairs, so a decision was made to include Briargrove in the bond program, so that's what brings us here."

This will be the first time HISD has tried to open 8 new schools on one day. Saavedra says with the exception of some landscaping, things should be ready to go on Monday.

"It's a real challenge to get all schools on-line. Some of these projects have been around-the-clock for a number of weeks now and will continue until we get ready to open on Monday. In all cases, I know the schools will be ready. They'll be clean and ready to serve the kids."

In November, voters will decide on a new, $805 million bond program that would build 22 more new schools and repair more than 100 others in HISD. It would be the third part in a three-installment bond program that started in 1998.

"We're an urban school system. Our facilities are relatively old in comparison to some of the suburban districts. The average age for our facilities right now is 43 years. The need is great. This is a brand new school, but frankly we need new and renovated schools all over the district."

Other new facilities expected to open Monday include Longfellow Elementary, Bruce Elementary and the Thomas J. Pilgrim Academy.

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