HISD Bond Program Paying Off

Foster Elementary
Nearly four years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, a Houston school district bond program approved by voters is paying-off, with new and rebuilt schools, revived neighborhoods and a sense of hope in some of the city's forgotten areas. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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When the $800 million Rebuild HISD bond program was approved in 2002, school board member Arthur Gaines recalls the grumbling by people who weren't sure it was the right thing. Now, he's standing inside brand-new Foster Elementary, which replaces a 57-year-old building that was falling apart.

"Some were worried, oh it's going to increase my taxes or this or that is going to happen. But we said, even if it increases your taxes a couple of pennies, it would be well worth it for the value it would bring to the community in terms of history and in terms of opportunities for the boys and girls to have a beautiful school in their own community that they can attend."

Foster ElementarySo far, about two-thirds of the 31 new or rebuilt schools are complete, with the rest expected to be done by next year. 25 schools have been or will be renovated and seven others have new additions. Pastor Thomas Walker leads St. Mary's United Methodist Church across the street from Foster Elementary on the city's southeast side and says new schools bring new hope.

"This area we call Foster Place or Union Station is probably one of the most underserved, undersupported communities in the city of Houston, but it is also a community that has a lot of hope. There's a lot of opportunity coming to this community and this community in my mind is probably a beginning of what we would consider a new start. It's one of the first buildings, new buildings, they've built in this community in years."

HISD's senior project manager Richard Lindsey has overseen the Rebuild HISD bond program and says building new schools is more than just about the kids, it's about the community.

"I do believe that a new school in a neighborhood is a vehicle for economic redevelopment and hopefully it helps educate more kids and it becomes a magnate. I believe it's kind of like Field of Dreams. You build a new facility and they will come."

As a former teacher, HISD school board president Diana Davila says she's seen first hand what new and renovated schools can do for students, parents and teachers.

"It brings people back. It brings people back into the schools. When children walk into a facility, it's a brand-new facility, you have state-of-the-art materials, technology, everything. I mean, it really boosts a student's ego. A parent gets excited and a teacher gets excited just to come to work everyday."

You can find out more about the Rebuild HISD Program and see pictures of Foster Elementary on our website, KUHF.org.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...