Harris County Department of Education breaks ground on county’s first public recovery high school

Harris County Department of Education breaks ground on Fortis Academy Oct. 17.

Harris County Department of Education breaks ground on Fortis Academy Oct. 17.

The Harris County Department of Education broke ground on Fortis Academy—the county’s first public recovery high school—this morning, Oct. 17. Scheduled to open sometime in the spring 2018 semester, the school will serve students who have completed a substance abuse or dependency rehabilitation program.

In its first year, 30 students will continue their studies in a sober environment with a focus on coaching, counseling and academics, HCDE officials said. The program is set to grow to 60 and 90 students in subsequent years.

The facility will be located at the 20,000-square-foot former Highpoint School North, which served as an alternative high school for at-risk students at 11902 Spears Road, Houston. Renovations are already underway.

HCDE Superintendent James Colbert said enrollment numbers had dropped at this facility, but instead of selling the property, he ultimately decided to repurpose it as a public recovery high school.

“Having been a former principal, assistant principal, I knew that the only solution I had at my fingertips anytime I got a student who was strung out on drugs or fighting with addiction is we would punish them,” he said. “We would send them to an alternative school—not in hope that they would get better, but just so, I guess, they’d disappear.”

Colbert said this was not the right way to address the problem. At Fortis Academy, qualified staff will assist students with sobriety and make them whole again, he said.

In the U.S., there are 40 recovery high schools—eight being in Texas—but most are private. Fortis Academy will be the first of its kind in the Houston area and the third public recovery high school in the state—the other two are in McKinney and Laredo ISDs.

Students will benefit from the new school’s services through contracts with their home school districts—any of the 25 districts HCDE covers.

Principal Anthony Moten, a former West Orange Cove ISD administrator, will lead the new school. Substance use disorder treatment service Turning Point will provide contract counseling services.

HCDE also recently became a member of Adolescent Recovery Oriented Systems of Care, a group of agencies in the Houston Recovery Initiative that provides substance abuse treatment, preventative care, after-care and recovery support for adolescents.

Once fully renovated, the school will tout a fully stocked kitchen for a culinary arts program, a therapeutic ropes course with a zip line for team-building and trust exercises, walking trails and a garden.

Fortis—a Latin word that means strength—communicates the school’s mission of protection, courage and creating a safe place, Colbert said.

“We really need to get down to the root of the problem and help these children fight their addictions,” he said.

To learn more about HCDE or Fortis Academy, visit www.hcde-texas.org.
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