11/08/17 1:30pm

THE KATY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH A FLOOD POOL SECRET Some documents related to the Katy ISD’s 1998 purchase of the 15-acre site now occupied by Creech Elementary School at 4242 S. Mason Rd. have been frozen — in an attempt to preserve them, after they got flooded when Barker Reservoir got backed up after Hurricane Harvey. What those records might show, once thawed: some explanation for why school officials at the time signed a notice indicating they did not review a map filed with the county by Westbrook Cinco East LP (the developer from whom the property was purchased) that disclosed in a note that the land came with the risk of “extended controlled inundation.” Though several Katy schools sit on land near or in the Barker reservoir flood pool — the area expected to fill up with water when the dam is closed for a major flooding event — only Creech suffered major damage. All 800 Creech students are now attending classes at the University of Houston’s nearby Cinco Ranch campus while the school undergoes an estimated $5 million worth of repairs. The school district’s superintendent tells the Chronicle‘s Lise Olsen that he and other school officials were unaware that the school was built in the flood pool until they were contacted for her story. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy: Breta Gatlin

11/07/17 1:00pm

In case you were curious what the 9th-floor 1-bedroom condo in the Cosmopolitan owned by southwest Houston charter school Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy looks like, here are some photos taken when the property was listed for sale in February of 2011, for $468,500. The school purchased the condo that June. 250 elementary and middle school students attend Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy on its mostly bare 7-acre campus at 12825 Summit Ridge Dr., near the intersection of Alt. 90 and the Fort Bend Pkwy. Toll Rd. The taxpayer-funded school’s 2 buildings have no windows.

So what’s the condo for? An unidentified school representative emails the Chronicle‘s Jacob Carpenter to explain it’s used for “”back office support and SECURE storage of historical records.” Repeated break-in attempts, according to the representative, prevented the records from being kept at the school. “The writer also reasoned that the charter preferred buying property instead of paying rent, and that its options were ‘very limited,’” writes Carpenter. “The author didn’t explain why the school opted for the condo when cheaper storage and office space were available.”

The almost-floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony in the school’s Cosmopolitan condo face south, down Post Oak Blvd.:

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A Charter School’s Uptown Holdings
09/14/17 4:45pm

One hundred seventy 3-to-6-year-old students restarted their school year at the Post Oak School in Bellaire this week in one very large classroom: the school’s basketball gym. Harvey flooded the lower school campus at Bissonnet St. and Avenue B in Bellaire with 4 inches of water throughout its first floor late last month. The result: 15 classrooms and other learning spaces were temporarily closed as a result of water damage.

Five elementary-school classes were moved to Episcopal High School, which is next door to the 54-year-old Montessori school. But the Post Oak School’s 6 separate primary-level classes are staying on campus at 4600 Bissonnet — only relocated into its largest available unflooded space. Over 3 days prior to the reopening, Post Oak employees, parents, and volunteers from Austin Montessori School set up a giant six-pack of Montessori classrooms using whatever undamaged furniture and materials they could find. And — as the video above shows — they filmed it all.

More views of classes, now in session:

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08/03/17 1:15pm

YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR WILLOWRIDGE HIGH MOLD INFESTATION UPDATES Curious about the extent of the mold found throughout Fort Bend ISD’s Willowridge High School this summer? Wondering if all the penicillium discovered on the campus at the tail end of Chimney Rock Rd. can be cleared out in time for the first day of school? As of today, there’s a new website for that: Check out this page for updates on remediation efforts; an accounting of band, JROTC, and athletic uniforms locked inside (they’ll be professionally cleaned); as well as a bit of backstory noting how investigators think the whole fungus fest began — after power was shut down in late June in advance of a planned construction project: “It is believed that the conditions outside (with increased humidity) combined with the fact that there was no A/C in the building factored into the rapid growth of the mold spores.” [Fort Bend ISD] Photo: Fort Bend ISD

06/08/17 3:00pm

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

04/28/17 9:30am

6529 Beverly Hill St., Woodlake/Briarmeadow, Houston, 77057

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
04/27/17 10:15am

EARLY VOTING OPEN NOW FOR HISD’S SPECIAL MAY 6TH ‘YOU SURE YOU WANNA DO THAT?’ ELECTION houston-isd-outlineEarly 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

04/20/17 12:30pm

Former Highpoint North Campus, 11902 Spears Rd., Spring, TX, 77067

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
03/10/17 2:00pm

9400 Irvington Blvd., Northline, Houston, 77076

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

Northline Realignment
02/21/17 4:00pm

7200 Main St., TMC, Houston, 77030

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
01/10/17 5:15pm

5405 T.C. Jester Blvd., Oak Forest, Houston, 770

5405 T.C. Jester Blvd., Oak Forest, Houston, 770A 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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GO/OF Detours
12/01/16 2:30pm

San Jacinto Memorial Green, 1300 HolmanSt., Midtown, Houston, 77003

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
11/09/16 2:30pm

HISD PROP 1 VOTERS TO STATE: COME AND TAKE IT OR MAYBE DO SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD hattie-mae-white-centerWhile 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

10/17/16 11:00am

JUDGE TO SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW: NOPE, SWITCH YOUR NAME BACK UNTIL UH LAWSUIT IS OVER 1303 San Jacinto St., Downtown, Houston, 77002On 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 SwamplotPhoto of South Texas College of Law at 1303 San Jacinto St.: South Texas College of Law

10/14/16 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE BELLAIRE HIGH CAMPUS SWAP QUESTION Bellaire HS, 5100 Maple St., Bellaire, TX 77401“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