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Hilliard Elementary Returns to Home Campus A Year after Harvey’s Devastation

Despite the challenges, Hilliard Elementary turned around its academics last year.

More than 500 students returned to their home campus at Hilliard Elementary, after a $5 million renovation to fix damage from Hurricane Harvey.
More than 500 students returned to their home campus at Hilliard Elementary, after a $5 million renovation to fix damage from Hurricane Harvey.

A year ago, Harvey left as much as four feet of floodwater inside Hilliard Elementary in Northeast Houston, soaking books and strewing debris throughout classrooms.

Houston’s school board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones surveyed the damage back then.

“I was one of the ones in tears last year when we came here, and when I walked in this morning I almost had tears again. Because it’s 110 percent different,” Skillern-Jones said.

For Hilliard’s school community, back-to-school was a special kind of homecoming — a return to their home campus.

Hilliard’s gotten a $5 million dollar facelift, including new furniture, new books, some fresh paint and new floors.

Last year, its nearly 600 students had to attend another campus. Assistant principal Bathsheba Nash said she’d meet families at the original campus and ride the bus with them to the other facility.

We came every day with a spirit of hope,” Nash said. “We believed the work could be done, and now I’m going to say we’re here and we’re going to continue to do that work.”

Despite the challenges, Hilliard Elementary turned around its academics last year. It had previously missed academic standard’s for three years in a row and was placed on the state’s watch list. Last month, it made a passing grade.

“You reap what you sow,” said Skillern-Jones. “And our people, our students and our teachers have sown good seeds in good soil. And that is the reason why we are where we are right now.”

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan congratulates Hilliard Elementary's assistant principal, Bathsheba Nash, for the resilience her students have shown.
Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan congratulates Hilliard Elementary’s assistant principal, Bathsheba Nash, for the resilience her students have shown.

Things still aren’t totally back normal, though, for the community surrounding Hilliard. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, said that her office has talked with residents who are still living in moldy homes.

Houston’s Interim superintendent Grenita Lathan said that the district will advocate for Texas lawmakers should use the state’s rainy day fund for continued Harvey relief for schools.

” I think we are forgetting that we were struggling as a district, as a city and as a state prior to Harvey. Harvey compounded it,” Lathan said. “So, I would say, no. Not only are our students not back to normal, our staff are not back. People are still experiencing trauma if it rains.” 

Nearly 600 students returned to their home campus at Hilliard Elementary a year after it suffered extensive damage from Harvey.
Nearly 600 students returned to their home campus at Hilliard Elementary a year after it suffered extensive damage from Harvey.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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