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HSPVA

KHSPVA

That will be the new acronym for the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

After impassioned debate, the Houston school board voted 7-2 Thursday to accept a $7.5 million gift for the district’s renowned arts high school and to rename the campus after the donors in an unprecedented move.

The Kinder Foundation, run by billionaire couple Richard and Nancy Kinder, offered the donation in exchange for calling the campus the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The money is supposed to help with rebuilding the school downtown, funding theater lighting and seats, a sound system, a specialized dance floor and more.

“We hope these joint and cooperative efforts preserve the long-term future of one of Houston’s most acclaimed and diverse schools and forges a new path through public/private partnership to support future HISD schools,” Rich Kinder said in a statement after the vote.

Board approval of the deal was in doubt just hours before the board meeting. Several trustees expressed frustration over the private negotiations that took place concerning the deal and questioned the fairness to other campuses in the Houston Independent School District. Board member Mike Lunceford, whose trustee district includes the arts school in its current Montrose-area location, had brought forward the proposal.

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Houston school board member Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who said Monday that she was conflicted about the proposal, said Thursday that, although she thought the renaming policy needed to be strengthened, she believed the students at the arts school deserved the funding.

“I do not believe you deprive our high-performing schools of what they need to get to equity,” Skillern-Jones, who has a son attending the arts high school, said before voting with the majority to support the proposal.

Houston board member Jolanda Jones, who opposed the deal along with trustee Diana Davila, described the gift negotiations as “sneaky.”

“I find it offensive that people say if you don’t vote for this, that you don’t care about the kids. Actually I care about all the kids in HISD,” Jones said.

“It seems like HISD is like a pimp, and the schools are what they sell,” Jones added. “That was the nicest way I could think to say it.

Here’s an earlier story, from when the grant was announced, and a Chron editorial in favor of taking the cash. I’ve advocated selling ad space on school buses and school rooftops, as well as naming rights to stadiums, so I’m hardly in a position to turn my nose up at this. I’m fine with reviewing the board policy to ensure we get what we want and not what we don’t, and I absolutely want to see grants like this going to poorer and less prestigious schools, which need the money more, but neither of those concerns should have an effect on this, so I’m glad the Board voted to accept. Maybe someday when we finally fund our schools at an appropriate level this sort of thing won’t be needed, but until then, I say bring it on. The Press has more.

HSPVA groundbreaking

Looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

A slab of cracked cement painted over with yellow parking lines sits at the corner of Rusk and Austin – with downtown skyscrapers looming overhead.

Come Tuesday, the cement will be ripped up and construction will begin on a new five-story, 168,000-square-foot building for the Houston ISD’s High School for Performing and Visual Arts.

The sleek, $80-million project will include a 200-seat mini-theater, 200-seat black box theater, 150-seat recital hall, rooftop garden and outdoor art studio. The centerpiece will be an 800-seat main theater, complete with a balcony, that will fit the prestigious magnet school’s entire faculty and student body with room to spare.

“We’re downtown and so close to the arts district, you can just feel the energy down here. It’s going to be amazing to have the kids down here,” said HSPVA principal R. Scott Allen, who was among the dignitaries to help break ground on the site Sunday at a celebration that included several student and alumni performances. “We already have great partnerships with the (local) arts organizations, but us being so much closer now, I think it makes it easier to make those even stronger. … To be able to even connect with businesses that don’t have an arts focus would give some kids some opportunities. That’s a dream of mine.”

The new space, approved by voters in a 2012 bond, will allow the school to move from its current Montrose campus. It will also provide room for the new creative writing program, whose students currently take classes in the library and in portable trailers.

See here and here for some background. HSPVA is one of HISD’s crown jewels, and this project sounds like it’s going to be awesome. It’s not far from where I work, I should wander over periodically and see how it’s going. It’s possible one of my kids could wind up going there, so we’ll just call it research. Anyway, I can’t wait to see what it winds up looking like.

How much would you pay for that high school?

Some cost more than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it.

Supporters of Houston’s nationally recognized High School for the Performing and Visual Arts have lobbied for 15 years for a larger, more modern building.

They could get their wish soon. But sticker shock over the $80.2 million price tag – for a school built to hold 750 students – may have to subside first.

The new campus, planned for downtown Houston instead of the current Montrose site, would cost $107,000 per student. That amounts to two or three times the per-pupil price for the other new high schools in HISD Superintendent Terry Grier’s proposal for a November bond referendum.

“What I don’t know is, what are we getting for $80 million? We have not sat down and gone over all those costs,” HISD board president Mike Lunceford said Friday. “We know there are special needs for that school. We need schools that are going to hold up, but we’re not trying to build Taj Mahals.”

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, HSPVA is one of the crown jewels of HISD, and as a school that offers specialized programming – performing and visual arts – it has special needs, and that adds to the price tag. As the story notes, outside of HSPVA, the per-student cost for the other high schools is right around the national average. By all means, do the due diligence and make sure we’re getting full value for the dollar, but let’s not lose the forest for the trees here. HSPVA is going to cost more than other schools.