COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN SCHOOLS GET IN THE WAY “I’m sick and tired of people always complaining about how such and such crime happened close to a school. Schools are peppered throughout the city, so pretty much anywhere is ‘near a school.’ Find me a school-free area where I can do my shootings.” [criminal guy, commenting on The Great Coltivare Kumquat Tree Heist] Illustration: Lulu
The recently remonikered Margaret Long Wisdom High School is prepping for its scheduled student body transplant as the school year winds down. The shot above shows the main entrance of the school’s almost-ready new building, tucked behind the old one along Hillcroft Ave. south of Beverly Hills St. That older structure, which cut its Confederate ties about a year ago, should be getting erased altogether starting in June, a reader involved with the project tells Swamplot.
Here’s the flip side view of the glassy main entrance above, which should be unlocked in time for fall classes:
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Creeping South on Hillcroft
EARLY VOTING OPEN NOW FOR HISD’S SPECIAL MAY 6TH ‘YOU SURE YOU WANNA DO THAT?’ ELECTION Early voting opened this past Monday and goes through next Tuesday, May 2nd, if you don’t wanna wait for the official May 6th election day to weigh in a second time on HISD Prop. 1. The ballot question, as Andrew Schneider notes this week for Houston Public Media, addresses the same funding recapture proposition that didn’t pass in November (meaning HISD voters opted not to send the state of Texas some $160-ish million in property tax money, as required under the current state education funding system.) The state responded in the spring with a list of $8 billion worth of skyscrapers, malls, refineries, and other properties it could pluck from HISD’s boundaries if the district doesn’t pay up; it also dropped the amount potentially owed this year down to $77.5 million as a nod to potential HISD revenue lost to the city’s homestead exemption. [Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Map of HISD and surrounding school districts: Texas Education Agency District Locator
The 20,000-sq.-ft. building at 11902 Spears Gears Rd. is getting cleaned up for a new gig as a school for Harris County students in recovery from addiction and substance abuse. The spot formerly housed the county’s Highpoint School North, one of several campuses around town that took in expelled students, but has been shut down since 2015. The county Department of Education signed off on the new use for the building this week, and says the school should open in September with capacity for up to 30 post-rehab students for now. The building sits just north of Davis High School, tucked next to the 2-acre lot that’s been built up since 2014 into the grounds of Cực Lạc Buddhist Temple.
Photos: Harris County Department of Education
New Paths Near Greens Bayou
The clearout of Sam Houston Math Science and Technology Center’s sports fields has begun, a reader notes this week. The school’s campus is squeezed in between the angled track of the Hardy Toll Rd. and north-south-running Irvington Blvd., just north of Tidwell Rd.; the existing 1950’s school building at the south end (which HISD says is the lost heir to one of the relocated and renamed Houston Academy schools founded downtown in the 1800s) will be knocked down to make room for new athletic fields, once the new building is up. The district says the first phase of the campus fliparound should be ready in time for the 2019-2020 school year; plans and renderings for the completed project show dedicated facilities for performing arts, autoshop, cosmetology, and more: CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
The sign above announcing the proposed abandonment of the short dead-end stretch of N. Braeswood Blvd. running east of Main St. was captured in situ by a reader over the weekend. The roadway currently serves as the access road for the remaining Saint Nicholas School campus, though the school is planning to be all moved in at that new facility further south along Main St. in about a year and a half. That’ll free up the landf for whatever might be in the works by shell corporation 7200 Main St., which now owns both the school property and the 8-plus-acre tract north of the N. Braeswood segment, former site of barn-shaped restaurant The Stables.
To the east of the orange-roofed soon-to-be-former Saint Nicholas school, HCC’s Coleman College for Health Sciences building looks to be just about wrapped up, at least in terms of exterior finishes:
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Medical Center Excision
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.