Four district schools and facilities—Kingwood High School, the Welcome Center, the Instructional Support Center and the district agriculture barns—were damaged significantly when Hurricane Harvey caused mass flooding in the Lake Houston area in August.
Several students and staff members were also affected.
The number of homeless HISD students jumped to 1,230, a 500-student increase, while 418 employees reported being financially affected, Director of Public Communications Jamie Mount said.
The road to recovery has been challenging, Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said.
“Of the Houston-area districts, ours is the single largest dollar figure and impact—even [higher than] Houston ISD, which had multiple elementary schools damaged,” Fagen said.
All damages to district property will be funded through a $28 million insurance payment, in addition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency covering 90 percent of the additional funds and money from the Texas Legislature to make the district whole, HISD Chief Financial Officer Mike Seale said.
Repairing Kingwood High School
The board of trustees approved a $78 million plan to renovate KHS and hired a construction management firm to oversee the reconstruction of its Welcome Center at the Nov. 14 board meeting. KHS damage costs were initially appraised at $30 million to $40 million, Fagen said.
The high cost of recovery forced the district to weigh several options, she said.
“This is a swiftly moving process with new information constantly coming to us,” Fagen said. “But once you get to a number like [$60] million dollars [for repairs to Kingwood High School], you really take a deeper look as you move forward in the process.”
HISD weighed four options before approving the plan for KHS, termed Option 1-A, which allows KHS students to return to their home school March 19.
KHS students are currently attending Summer Creek High School. SCHS students meet for classes from 7-11:19 a.m., while KHS students meet from 12:11-4:30 p.m.
Returning to KHS will allow students from both schools to have a full class day and allow seniors to spend their last few months at KHS, Fagen said.
“Work is progressing well on the restoration of the campus after flooding,” district officials said in a statement. “This move will also allow Summer Creek High School [students] to finish the year with full-time access to their campus.”
When students return to Kingwood in mid-March, they will have classes on the second, third and fourth floors, which includes most classrooms and the cafeteria. Students will have access to the fine arts and athletics facilities. However, some areas of the first floor, which includes most of the administrative offices, will not be fully available as renovations continue, according to the district.
With Option 1-A, the district will renovate KHS to its previous design and add flood mitigation options, such as a new competition gym located above the 100-year flood plain and artificial field turf that would not be destroyed with heavy rains.
The previous competition gym, which was located on the first floor and sustained flood damage, will be converted into a practice gym.
The district has yet to approve a construction timeline for the competition gym and field turf.
The cost for the gym could be covered by a bond referendum the district is planning to seek voter approval for in 2018; however, the $10 million project will be paid out of the general fund if it is not included or the bond referendum fails, Seale said.
HISD also considered tearing down KHS and rebuilding a brand new school at a cost of $227 million or completely rebuilding the first floor for $135 million. Fagen said Option 1A was more cost-efficient and will return students to Kingwood High quicker.
“It raises the gym above the flood plain, adds some new features to the school, keeps athletics and fine arts on-site and allows them to have a full schedule, and minimizes the disruption,” Fagen said.
The district’s Welcome Center received between 6 and 8 inches of water during Harvey, causing $6 million in damage, said Nolan Correa, associate superintendent for support services. The electrical systems, the elevator and the mechanical systems were all damaged.
The Welcome Center, which serves as a place where families moving into the district can find information about HISD, could reopen this summer, he said.
HISD approved a $317,350 contract to allow Anslow Bryant Construction to serve as construction manager for the renovation of the Welcome Center in November.
“They are a firm that specializes in commercial construction—they actually have a large portfolio of high-rise interior renovation and construction of new high rises,” said Rick Blan, partner for PBK Architects Partner, which is a firm that is consulting for the district about facilities.
Meanwhile, the Instructional Support Center received about a foot of water even though the building is raised nearly 4 feet off the ground, causing about $10 million in damage, Correa said. Several HISD departments, such as Special Education and Career and Technical Education are housed at the ISC.
All of the chillers and generators in addition to everything on the first floor were damaged. The district is expected to select a contractor and have a construction timeline in December, Correa said.
Damage to the Kingwood Agriculture Barn is estimated at $750,000, however, the district is looking into rebuilding the facility in a different location.
Repairing the barn creates a quandary because it sits in the 100-year flood plain, HISD board member Robert Sitton said. Even if the building is raised out of the 100-year flood plain, the road that leads to the barn is in the flood plain, he said.
“The Kingwood Ag Barn is operational; however, it will need to be rebuilt,” Sitton said. “There is the potential that we could look for other property to move it to.”