On Thursday, the Houston Independent School District Board of Education will vote on a plan to demolish and rebuild four of its most Harvey-ravaged schools.
The schools are Braeburn, Scarborough, Kolter and Mitchell Elementary. For more than 50 years, they served as institutions where some of the youngest minds went to grow. However, today, they sit empty.
“Right after Harvey, we walked in, and there were feet and inches of water throughout these buildings,” explained Brian Busby, HISD’s Chief Operating Officer. “You think, ‘What will these kids come back to?’ Because they can’t come back here.”
At first the plan was to renovate, but after assessing the millions of dollars in damages, the idea to just start over was floated.
“Do we need to invest this many more millions of dollars in campuses this old?” Busby said.
All the buildings were built around the 1960s. They don’t really fit the “21st century student,” and they have flooded before.
“Fiduciary, it doesn’t make sense to continue to remodel them,” explained Diana Davila, First Vice President, District VIII.
The cost to rebuild the schools from the ground up is estimated at $126 million. They would be built at their current locations but would be elevated to protect against future floods. Taxpayers would not be burdened as the costs would be covered by Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) funds and a kind of savings account from the district.
Davila expects the vote to pass unopposed. If it does, the goal is to have the schools rebuilt and back open by 2020. In the meantime, the students would continue their education elsewhere, likely where they’re currently relocated.
Both Busby and Davila said they haven’t had any negative feedback about the plan so far.
The board meeting begins at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. Anyone who would like to weigh in should attend.