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Ambitious Plan To Save Houston’s High Schools

The Houston Independent School District faced some trying times last year when it had to cut jobs and close schools to trim its budget. Yesterday it unveiled a massive building program that would be paid for by a bond referendum. The Board has until August to decide whether or not to place the bond on the ballot for the November election.  



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The $1.89 billion proposal was presented to the Houston School Board, a measure that would be paid for by a tax increase that would average about $100 by 2017.

Superintendent Terry Grier told the board, that an extensive study by Parsons Engineering resulted in a finding that was no surprise.

“Our high schools were not in very good condition. Some are in disrepair, so we have, we believe, some serious needs surrounding our high schools.”

The district would use nearly $1.2 billion to finance rebuilding or renovating 24 high schools.

Scott Allen is principal at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He says moving the campus to the downtown area would benefit the city’s aspiring young artists.

“Every year we have about 2,000 auditions for about 180-200 spots. So, it’s pretty difficult to get in, but we have the best of the best, and the most talented young artists in the city.”

Hernandez: “These are big decisions that the school board has to make, that’s going to affect schools all over Houston, but also, adding amenities to neighborhoods as well, when we talk about new schools being built.”

Allen: “Right it’s huge. And when you talk about the number of schools they’re looking at replacing, and the number of schools that they’re looking at renovating, I think you have to stop and look at the effect it has on kids. And you can’t but think that if there were new buildings that really fit the needs of kids, that they’re going to be excited about going to school, and the neighborhoods would be kind of revitalized because of those replacements. I think the exciting thing about PVA being downtown is when you look at downtown, there is a revitalization, and the only thing that’s kind of missing is youth and young people. And I think to get high school kids downtown, it just opens up a new energy for the city.”

Over $700 million would be earmarked for a variety of projects, like replacing some middle schools, converting others to kindergarten through eighth grade, renovating schools that excel in math & science, and building two new early college high schools. 

Once again, district Superintendent Terry Grier.

“When you start replacing this number of high schools, it can change an entire city. You go into a community and you take an old, worn out high school that’s 50, 55, 60 years old, that’s run down and you put a 21st century learning center in that community, and home values go up, economic development improves. This is good for Houston. This is good for Houston’s children.”

The board must decide by August, whether to present the proposal to district voters during the general election in November. Meanwhile, board members unanimously adopted a nearly $1.6 billion budget for the next school year.