It has been more than a year since the remains of 95 bodies were discovered at Fort Bend ISD’s construction site for the James Reese Career and Technical Center set to open in August.
Officials with FBISD, Fort Bend County and the city of Sugar Land are working together to support legislation that would allow the county to own, operate and maintain a cemetery on site where the remains were discovered.
“I think this is one of our best steps,” said Doug Brinkley, Sugar Land assistant city manager.
House Bill 4179 is authored by state Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, and co-authored by state Reps. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City; Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton; and John Zerwas, R-Richmond. The bill was passed favorably out of the House county affairs committee April 29.
“The hearing on HB 4179 went very well,” Miller said in an email April 7. “This will enable the county and school board to move forward with a sense of urgency to complete this essential action for the Sugar Land 95.”
As it stands, only counties with a population of 8,200 or less have the authority own, operate and maintain cemeteries should they choose to take ownership.
“We are saying that we just want to have the same freedom that small counties have,” Fort Bend County Judge KP George said.
As progress continues on construction of the new school, FBISD officials are working to implement the Sugar Land 95 into the district’s curriculum.
“I’m really proud that we’re taking this approach,” FBISD trustee Addie Heyliger said. “I would love to see it go even further than local history.”
During an April 8 board meeting, Stephanie Williams, FBISD executive director of teaching and learning, said students learning Texas and U.S. history in fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth grades as well as at the high school level will learn about the Sugar Land 95.
“It would provide for the opportunity to integrate the content into existing units of instruction,” Williams said during the board meeting.
The human remains discovered date back to the mid-1870s to 1912, when convict labor leasing, a system that provided prisoners as laborers, was practiced in Texas.