Construction delays at FBISD's career and technical school costing millions as decision about reburial of human remains found at site is held up in court

Fort Bend ISD's $58 million career and technology center that is part of the district’s 2014 bond program is still scheduled to open on time in 2019 because construction is ongoing in areas unaffected by the discovery of historic remains on the property earlier this year, according to a release from the district.

However, cost increases associated with the delays and potential redesign are increasing each month as FBISD has already incurred about $5.5 million in costs for construction delays, archaeological observation, investigation, exhumation and historical analysis, according to the district.

According to legal documents, when the district filed a petition seeking court approval to exhume the bodies of the 95 individuals in May, the petition specifically stated the district was not seeking removal of any dedication of the land for cemetery purposes.

On Nov. 7, the district filed a new petition requesting court approval to remove the cemetery or abandoned cemetery designation legally attributed to the property and grave sites. The petition also requested court approval to move and reinter the bodies at the Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery.

If the court does not grant the removal of the cemetery or historic cemetery designation from the site and does not allow for reburial at the Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery, the school would need to be redesigned to fill different areas of the property, according to a release from the district. The costs to construct the redesigned center would add about $18 million in costs to building the school, putting the project about $25 million over budget, district officials said.

“The district and the city of Sugar Land reached an agreement to bury the remains in a city-owned cemetery in October,” FBISD board President Jason Burdine said in a statement. “The only hold-up now is that we need approval from the court. Further delay will leave the remains without a final resting place and will add millions of dollars of un-budgeted costs to the project. Our district has a responsibility to our students, taxpayers, and the citizens who voted in support of this project to avoid the continuing delay and economic harm being caused to the taxpayers."

FBISD officials filed a petition to the court of appeals following a Dec. 18 ruling from Fort Bend County's 434th District Court Judge James Shoemake keeping Master in Chancery Michael Elliott—a Richmond attorney—on the case regarding the reburial of human remains discovered at Fort Bend ISD’s James Reese Career and Technical Center construction site.

Elliott was appointed master in chancery, or an assistant in the court who does not serve to advocate for either side, Nov. 21 following a Nov. 19 hearing regarding the reburial.

On Nov. 30, FBISD filed an objection to the appointment of a master in chancery for the case. The district also filed a supplemental petition Dec. 17 requesting an expedited order for its petition made on Nov. 7, citing financial and timing issues for the school’s opening, according to the court documents.

Other matters, including when the next hearing will be, will be determined by Shoemake at a later date.

“They could release an opinion as early as today, or they could take their time about it," Elliott said. "I expect that it will not take long. Whatever they do, they’ll do it probably fairly expeditiously. Not necessarily hinging on that, Judge Shoemake said that he would make a ruling on the other issues in the next few days.”
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


Forecasters currently predict Tropical Storm Beta will make landfall the evening of Sept. 22 along the middle Texas coast then slowly move along the coast or slightly inland through the Greater Houston region toward Louisiana. (Courtesy National Weather Service)
Disaster declaration issued for 4 Houston-area counties ahead of Tropical Storm Beta

Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston and Harris counties were all included in a disaster declaration issued Sept. 21; several Bay Area school districts, colleges and city entities are closed in response.

Free COVID-19 testing will be available to festival staff, participants and patrons every weekend of the festival this fall. (Courtesy Steven David Photography)
Free COVID-19 testing at Texas Renaissance Festival and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Here is the latest information on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Fort Bend County. (Community Impact staff)
DATA: Fort Bend County sees 347 new coronavirus cases Sept. 11-17; hospitalizations dip to May levels

Here is the latest information on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Fort Bend County.

Free COVID-19 testing will be available to festival staff, participants and patrons every weekend of the festival this fall. (Courtesy Steven David Photography)
Texas Renaissance Festival to offer free COVID-19 rapid testing throughout season

Additionally, a free drive-thru testing site will be set up in Todd Mission on Sept. 19.

City Council members and city staff participated in a ribbon-cutting to usher the city from Phase One to Phase Two of the citywide beautification project. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Missouri City celebrates completed median enhancements on Texas Parkway, Cartwright Road

The median enhancements are phase one of a three-part citywide beatufication project.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.

The Houston Food Bank is looking for more volunteers as it handles increased food distribution during COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)
Houston Food Bank: COVID-19 pandemic amplifies already-high food insecurity rates across region

Before COVID-19, the Houston Food Bank distributed about 400,000 pounds of food daily. That number has since increased to about 1 million pounds a day.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Sept. 17 that data from Texas' 22 hospital regions will dictate when certain businesses can reopen at 75% capacity. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

Nursing home and long-term care facilities will also be allowed to reopen for visitation as early as Sept. 24.

An inside look at Lamar CISD data and demographics by campus. (Graphic by Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
DATA: Lamar CISD student demographics by campus

While 43% of LCISD students are Hispanic and 27% are white, LCISD teachers are 19.5% Hispanic and 61.3% white.

A breakdown of data and demographics for students and teachers in Fort Bend ISD. (Graphic by Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
DATA: Fort Bend ISD student demographics by campus

Fort Bend ISD's overall student demographics are 27.2% African American, 26.5% Asian or Pacific Islander, 26.5% Hispanic and 16.2% White.