A strip-mall enthusiast cruising the northern edge of Oak Forest this week sends a few shots from a stop through the 5405 T.C. Jester Center just south of Tidwell Rd. The center, located east across Cole Creek from the Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant, is home to Frio To Go, part of Houston’s budding tape-the-top frozen cocktail drive-thru scene. The daquiri store has been operating since 2014 under its traffic signal sigil; the shop’s placement also provides a handy opportunity for situational testing for the over-21 students of Prime Time Driving School, located a few doors down:
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That tiny replica of the San Jacinto Monument near San Jacinto and Holman streets is surrounded these days by the landscaping of Houston Community College’s San Jacinto Memorial Green, the green-space-turned-parking-lot-turned-back-to-green-space next to the adjacent building that once housed San Jacinto High School. A reader sends an early-evening out-the-window shot of the park, which is scheduled to formally open on Saturday.
That shot faces Holman St., with Caroline St. visible to the northeast and lined up with the green space’s lit walkway; most of the lawn seen to the left of that path was paved parking lotbetween the 1980s and 2014. The photo is taken from the former San Jac high school structure itself (now employed as part of HCC’s Central Campus, and referred to as the San Jacinto Memorial Building by the time of its 2012 addition to the National Register of Historic Places):
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Remembering Asphalt Gone By
HISD PROP 1 VOTERS TO STATE: COME AND TAKE IT OR MAYBE DO SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD While the Heights Dry Zone was dampened yesterday by a 63-to-36-percent moistening vote for City of Houston Prop. 1, HISD’s non-alcohol-related Prop. 1 was shot down yesterday by about the same margin (62-to-37-percent against). Laura Isensee writes that the measure was on the ballot this year because Houston’s rising property tax values have put it above a wealth threshold requiring it to share revenue into the state’s education funding system, “even if the majority of its students come from low-income households.” Crossing that threshold means the district was asked to send around $162 million this year to be distributed around; the ‘no’ vote however, denied the district permission to send the money the usual way (which no district has ever refused to do before). To get at the funds, the state could redraw the boundaries of HISD to move some higher-tax-value property into other nearby districts — or it could overhaul the education funding system during this year’s legislative session, as that Texas Supreme Court ruling in May strongly recommended (but did not order). Isensee writes that mayor Turner and others who campaigned against the proposition are hoping the vote will spur the Legislature to reform education funding in the upcoming session; lieutenant governor Dan Patrick has already said a special summer session could be called to tackle the issue, while governor Greg Abbott has already said that won’t be necessary. [Houston Public Media] Photo of HISD central office at 4400 West 18th St.: HISD
JUDGE TO SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW: NOPE, SWITCH YOUR NAME BACK UNTIL UH LAWSUIT IS OVER On Friday a judge issued a temporary injunction on South Texas College of Law’s sudden June rebranding, agreeing that the University of Houston has a point that the new name (Houston College of Law) and new color scheme (red and white) might be a bit confusing. Gabrielle Banks reports that the 2 schools will get together on Wednesday to talk through the name-change reversal; UH’s legal team notes that South Texas will have to “remove their billboards, change their website, remove merchandise from stores and change their name [back] in the American Bar Association database” — at least until the lawsuit (filed less than a week after the name change was first announced) wraps up. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of South Texas College of Law at 1303 San Jacinto St.: South Texas College of Law
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE BELLAIRE HIGH CAMPUS SWAP QUESTION “Currently, Sharpstown High is being rebuilt. Rather than tearing down the old school building when the new one is complete, let that become the temporary home of Bellaire. Stagger hours of the 2 schools, rent parking space at nearby vacant lots, run shuttles, etc. They’re geographically not that far from each other. This would allow Bellaire to be rebuilt on the same footprint and keep the student body together.” [Terri Bamberger, commenting on Hitting the Brakes on the Bellaire High School Chevron Campus Swap Talk] Photo of Bellaire High School campus at 5100 Maple St.: Houston ISD
HITTING THE BRAKES ON THE BELLAIRE HIGH SCHOOL CHEVRON CAMPUS SWAP TALK Prior to this afternoon’s closed HISD executives meeting, trustee Mike Lunceford told Charlotte Aguilar that he’ll no longer be supporting that plan to turn the former Chevron campus at 4800 Fournace Pl. into a new campus for Bellaire High School, citing the potential price and a lack of support from the HISD board for the plan. Bellaire got money to replace the 1955 school at its existing location along S. Rice Ave. during the 2012 bond election; Aguilar writes that the redo “has lagged behind schedule and increased in cost because of the complexities of dealing with Bellaire’s tight zoning regulations, and the question of what to do with the school’s 3,500-plus students during construction.” [InstantNewsBellaire; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Bellaire High School at 5100 Maple St.: Houston ISD
A crane and 2 egrets were spotted on Brays Bayou just east of Main St. by a curious reader, along with the rising superstructure of the new Houston Community College Coleman College for Health Sciences building. The midrise, which will eventually connect to the other HCC buildings across Pressler St. via skybridge, should have 10 stories by the time the building opens (which, per HCC’s current plans, will be next August). The building is going up between the UT’s Sarofim Research Building and the large parking lot where the Shamrock Movie Theater once stood, across Main St. from the currently-also-mostly-a-parking-lot Shamrock Hilton site where the new DeBakey High School campus is going up.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Med Center Operations
FEDS TO TEXAS: STOP PRESSURING SCHOOLS INTO CAPPING SERVICES FOR KIDS WITH DISABILITIES
The Department of Education sent out a knock-it-off letter yesterday in response to recently published documentation of a 32% drop in the percentage of Texas students getting special education services — down from 12.1% in 2000 to a seemingly-research-free “goal” of 8.5%. Brian M. Rosenthal reports that the push to reduce the special ed enrollment rate (a policy which was never publically announced) came shortly after the legislature cut the Texas Education Agency’s budget by more than a billion dollars in 2003; the 2004 special ed policy change may have saved the state billions of dollars by withholding federally-mandated accommodations for “children with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, and blindness and deafness.” Though the agency also couldn’t provide any documentation as to why that target number was picked, educators and district administrators have told Rosenthal that the percentage functions as a de facto cap on how many students can receive services, since failure to come in below the 8.5% benchmark docks a school’s performance rating. Meanwhile, HISD’s own numbers have reportedly gone below and beyond the requirement, diving to 7.4% special ed enrollment versus 19% in New York City. Texas has 30 days to get back to the Department of Education on how it thinks the policy has impacted state school districts, and what it plans to do about it. [Houston Chronicle] Map of Houston-area school districts: TEA School District Locator
HISD TOSSING AROUND A BELLAIRE HS REBUILD ON THE CHEVRON CAMPUS UP THE STREET On Monday some HISD folks pitched the idea of buying Chevron’s soon-to-be-empty land on Fournace Place to a committee overseeing the lately-stagnant push to rebuild Bellaire High School, Charlotte Aguilar reports this week. The 28-acre tract, which goes on sale on Saturday, is about 2 miles north of the school’s existing 17-acre campus and also fronts S. Rice Ave. HISD trustee Mike Lunceford tells Aguilar that Bellaire, “while one of the largest high schools in HISD, is on the smallest property.” Principal Michael McDonough emailed stakeholders to say that if HISD decides to back the plan and is able to buy the land, funding would probably be put to a bond election; meanwhile, the existing school would still need some work while a new one was built. The Chevron land currently has a 10-story office midrise on it; the shot above looks out the window of that building toward the West Loop and the freeway-side Shell station next door (also up for sale). [Instant News Bellaire; previously on Swamplot] Photo from 4800 Fournace Pl.: Alvin A.
Yesterday was opening day for SEARCH’s second House of Tiny Treasures, the organization’s child-education-slash-daycare operation. The new structure at the corner of Francis St. and currently-being-Emancipated Dowling forms a Francis-facing U around the land last employed as a playground following decades of vacancy. On the back side of the block is the crumbling former salon building which was briefly turned into a pre-integration time capsule living room as part of that 2013 Beauty Box art installation; east on Stuart St. is the spot where the ZeRow solar rowhouse landed after it went to Washington:
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Dowling Filling In
A fresh batch of temporary buildings have recently made an appearance in the W. Dallas-adjacent field at the Gregory Lincoln Education Center, a reader notes. The buildings, some 21 in all, are a complete temporary campus set up for use by elementary school Wharton Dual Language Academy, whose own land less than half a mile away at W. Gray and Columbus streets is being turned over to construction crews for a $35.6-million expansion. A 3-story building will be tacked onto the north side of the existing Wharton structure, closing off a new interior courtyard; below is a look through the renderings and floor plans for the expansion, as well as the layout for the anticipated 2-year-long of Gregory Lincoln squeeze-in:
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Sporting Something New
THE UT AUSTIN SEGREGATION LAWSUIT THAT MADE TSU HOUSTON’S FIRST PUBLIC UNIVERSITY A recounting of some Houston higher-ed history comes from Ben Werlund this past weekend — namely, how University of Houston and Texas Southern University ended up as separate but adjacent public universities in the Third Ward. In 1927 the schools were founded as Houston Junior College and Houston Colored Junior College, segregated schools that eventually wound up on neighboring land after being renamed University of Houston and the Houston College for Negroes. In 1946, black Houstonian Heman Marion Sweatt was denied admission to all-white UT Austin’s law school; as the resulting lawsuit worked its way up to the Supreme Court in the pre-Brown v. Board of Education landscape of separate-but-equal requirements, the state quickly bought and renamed the Houston College for Negroes and added a law school, trying to prove that black students had comparable options to the Austin campus. “And thus, Houston’s first public university was born,” writes Werlund, to keep the Texas school system “from having to integrate its flagship in Austin.” The Supreme Court, however, didn’t buy that the new Houston law offerings measured up to the nearly 70-year-old UT law program, and UT Austin had to admit Sweatt after a 1950 ruling. TSU law professor James Douglas tells Werlund that the state legislature proceeded to cut TSU’s budget by 40 percent the next year; the private all-white University of Houston didn’t start to admit black students until 1962, shortly after which it turned public. “This was in the ’60s,” notes Douglas — “In 1964, I don’t think the people in Austin really thought integration was going to stick . . . I don’t think they ever thought this whole idea of having 2 universities close to each other was ever going to be a problem.” [Houston Chronicle] Image of Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University: TSU
UH READY FOR LEGAL ACTION OVER SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW’S HOUSTON REBRANDING “It has come to the University of Houston’s attention that South Texas College of Law has announced that it is changing its name to Houston College of Law. . . . The University of Houston is concerned about the significant confusion this creates in the marketplace and will take any and all appropriate legal actions to protect the interests of our institution, our brand, and our standing in the communities we serve.” [University of Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo of University of Houston Law Center: Douglas R.
DID SOUTH TEXAS LAW JUST BECOME HOUSTON’S FIRST “COLLEGE”?
Downtown’s South Texas College of Law just announced that the 93-year-old school is changing its name to Houston College of Law. A press release issued by the school this morning calls the name swap part of the institution’s ongoing effort to “distinguish itself regionally and nationally” — and indeed, the name is distinct from those of both law-school-containing University of Houston (located 2 miles southeast) and same-chancellor-separate-institution University of Houston Downtown (a mile to the north), though all 3 schools employ a red and white color scheme. Unlike other recent Houston school renamings, today’s announced change appears to be effective immediately; the law school’s logos have already been updated, though its website address has not. [Houston College of Law] Photo of Houston College of Law at 1303 San Jacinto St.: Houston College of Law
Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks snaps a fresh photo of the Spirit of the Confederacy, the well-labeled century-old statue standing around by the lake on the west side of Sam Houston Park (near the split of Allen Pkwy. into Lamar and Walker streets downtown). The statue’s placement was funded in 1908 by Houston’s still-active Robert E. Lee chapter of the national United Daughters of the Confederacy and is inscribed to “all heroes of the South who fought for the principles of states rights.” Despite the statue’s unambiguous Confederate sympathies and nearness to City Hall, the bronze statue has largely flown beneath the radar of the past year’s scrutiny of Houston school and street names.
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Sam Houston Park