Spring ISD began demolition in mid-April on the three-story TC Jester Boulevard building that will serve as the permanent location for Early College Academy, replacing the temporary facilities that have housed the project since it opened in 2011, according to a district press release.

Early College Academy allows SISD students to graduate from high school with an associate degree or 60 college credit hours established at no charge. The program is a partnership between the district and Lone Star College-North Harris.

“Having the permanent facility will help the program first from a safety and security standpoint,” Early College Academy Principal Rene Garganta said. “It also provides us an opportunity to really reflect the environment that we want to create for students. Symbolically, it demonstrates a commitment to the community and the program that I know our students and families are looking for.”

Spring ISD Early College Academy building projected to open this fallAt its March 31 meeting, the SISD board of trustees approved a guaranteed maximum price proposal of $4.78 million to refurbish the One Park Centre building at 14450 TC Jester Blvd. for the academy.

A video presented at the meeting featured a computer rendering of what the facility will look like. The clip included computer and science labs, a gym area, cafeteria and classrooms.

At the meeting, SISD Chief Operating Officer Mark Miranda said once the guaranteed maximum price was approved, contractors were ready to begin work immediately to keep the building on schedule for opening this fall.

The Early College Academy senior class now will be the last to graduate from the temporary location, he said.

The district has stated there will be no additional cost to taxpayers for this project. Last year, the district projected that $3.4 million would be covered by funds left from previous bond projects with the outstanding balance coming from the general fund, according to a press release.

The district’s total investment in the building is $6.3 million, Miranda said.

“It would cost double that to build a brand new building,” he said.

He said constructing a new building would cost $12.3 million. The TC Jester Boulevard building was purchased for $35 per square foot.

“We can get this done by next school year,” Miranda said. “To do this from scratch with a new building would take at least two years.”

Plans for the nearly 45,000-square-foot, three-story building originally included only the first two floors. However, the district worked with Houston-based PBK Architects and SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks to design a plan that will also renovate the third floor.

The third floor will house exercise equipment that could help students meet their physical education requirements, officials said

SISD has contracted with Balfour Beatty Construction, which has offices in Houston, for the project.

Students participated in a demolition day in April to symbolically help take down a wall in the building before work began on the actual construction of the new facility.

“You could see the excitement on the students’ faces,” Miranda said.  “They were writing things like ‘Goodbye portables’ on the walls. It was a great opportunity for them to get involved and get excited.”

The Class of 2016 will graduate on May 28. Last year’s graduating class was the first to receive diplomas.

“They took on the challenge of being the first class,” Garganta said. “It was unknown territory, and they braved all the obstacles, all the trials and errors. I was very proud of them.”