Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Final 2007 Bond Project Recognizes Legacy of Former Spring Branch High School

Members of the Spring Branch Senior High School Alumni  Association check out a rendering of renovations June 30 at the Spring Branch  Education Center groundbreaking ceremony.
Ceremonial dirt was turned on Tuesday, June 30, at the former Spring Branch High School, a groundbreaking literally years in the making.

Spring Branch High School opened in 1949, moving into its building on Westview in 1952 where it operated until closed by the district in 1985. The building morphed into the Spring Branch Education Center, housing the district’s Academy of Choice and Cornerstone Academy.

View more photos of the SBEC Groundbreaking >>

Significantly, the building also housed a collection of artifacts from the high school, a treasure trove of memorabilia that serve as tangible reminders of a Spring Branch that once was.

And while the facility was scheduled to have work done as part of the 2007 bond program, the work was mechanical in nature and would make no visible difference from the street.

Spring Branch ISD trustees and dignitaries join former superintendent Duncan
Klussmann (right) in turning ceremonial dirt at the  groundbreaking June 30
for renovations at Spring Branch Education Center.
“We had allocated about $18 million for basic renovations,” said former superintendent Duncan Klussmann, whose role in the groundbreaking was one of his last official acts. “I worried that we wouldn’t be able to tell we’d spent any money at all … we started talking about what we could do.”

After a study of the district’s site on Westview, a site that includes SBEC, a warehouse, community education, tax office, Grob Stadium, SBISD Police Department, the Bear Blvd. School and Vines Science Center, a plan was devised that would demolish the wings from SBEC and rebuild separate wings for Academy of Choice and Cornerstone Academy.

The plan also leaves the original auditorium and library from 1952, bridging the current and future with the rich legacy that is Spring Branch High School. The Spring Branch High School Museum will have a permanent home in the building’s former library, giving it more display space and a more accessible location.

Through sound financial management of the $597.1 million 2007 bond program, the district was able to find another $10 million to pay for the $29 million renovation of the campus.

The original groundbreaking was scheduled for June 16 – the day Spring Branch ISD and many institutions and companies shut down under the threat of Tropical Storm Bill. The program was cancelled that day and eventually rescheduled for June 30.

So after all that, ground was finally broken on June 30 – complete with the obligatory photographs – in less than a minute.

An early afternoon program inside the auditorium ended with guests moving outside to the courtyard where they were greeted with flashes of lightning and the rumbling of thunder. Klussmann hurried up the outdoor proceedings to get people back inside the safety of the building.

Alumni, including District A Houston City Council member Brenda Stardig, shared history and memories of Spring Branch High School, underscoring the school’s legacy in the community.

“The spirit of the Bear didn’t die when the school was closed,” said Della Sivley Mousner, class of 1953 and the museum’s curator, following up on Linda House’s (class of 1956) comments on how the alumni association and museum came into being.

Jill Wright, school director of Cornerstone Academy who will add Academy of Choice to her duties after the retirement of Michele Hilberth, said she was excited that after years of trying to force programs to fit the building, the building would be designed to fit the programs.

Mayor Tom Ramsey of Spring Valley (left) with Mike  Andrews,
Class of 1959; Patsy Andrews, Class of 1959; Theresa Kosmoski,
former SBISD trustee; and Jill Wright, director of Cornerstone
Academy and Academy of  Choice.
And Mike Andrews, class of 1959, and former mayor of Spring Valley, inside whose boundaries the school lies, brought back memories of his time as a student at Spring Branch Senior High School, describing favorite teachers and administrators and life in the community at the time.

Current Spring Valley Mayor Tom Ramsey said that while he didn’t grow up in Spring Branch, he heard plenty about the district in his hometown of Crockett. He said that the SBEC site is the largest tract of land in Spring Valley and thanked Klussmann for reaching out and working with the city on its plans.

Board of Trustees Vice President Karen Peck said that trustees were excited when presented the opportunity to do something special with the SBEC site, pointing out that beyond honoring the legacy of Spring Branch High School the building in more recent years has been the “embodiment of the district’s belief” in student choice.

Besides the new wings, plans call for restoration of the building’s original entry, currently behind the two-story brown brick wings stretching across the Westview entrance built in 1958 to handle ever-increasing enrollment. And the Spring Branch High School name will be added back to the building by including the museum. The auditorium’s interior will be redone as well.

“We are committed to doing this right,” Klussmann said.

Academy of Choice and Cornerstone Academy will reside in the East Transition Center – the former Edgewood Elementary building on Emnora – until the renovation is complete in late 2016.


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