TYLER ISD | HIGH SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION
Nearly two years ago, voters in Tyler ISD approved a $198 million bond package, and today two massive high schools are taking shape before their eyes.
Commuters driving by the John Tyler or Robert E. Lee campuses can see the academic wings, which will become the entrances to the new high schools.
Students recently toured both sites with the district's facilities team.
While Lee is an almost total rebuild, construction teams at John Tyler are using parts of the existing facility in the project.
Students at John Tyler should be able to use the new practice gym by this summer and the entire new school by January.
Tyler ISD's director of facilities said teams are working to seamlessly incorporate old and new portions of the building. Once students move into the new academic wing, crews will remodel the existing school.
Officials estimated the district saved about $30 million at JT by using a part of the existing building.
At Lee, construction crews are installing windows and soon will shift work into the interior. Older existing buildings — including the fine arts center, varsity
gym and field house — will be remodeled.
"It's big. It's a very good school; it looks really nice," Tino Enriquez, a junior at Lee, said. "I can actually visualize everything we're doing, (seeing) how they're doing it in real life, not just in the classroom."
Enriquez said he was disappointed he would graduate before being able to attend classes in the new facility.
One of the biggest challenges at both campuses is something everyone relies on – air conditioning.
Lee was built before air conditioning was commercially available and its system was upgraded in piecemeal fashion over the years. John Tyler uses an antiquated chiller system that cools, heats and pumps water to maintain temperatures.
The challenge John Tyler faces is connecting all areas to updated A/C systems.
"I'm thrilled. You won't believe how many calls I get (about the A/C at John Tyler)," Director of Facilities Tim Loper said. "On weeks we have 30-degree temperatures the first part of the week and 80-de gree weather the second part, you have to (manually) switch the flow of the water."
For students exposed to the natural elements between classes at Lee and those who can't adjust temperatures in classrooms at John Tyler, the modern heating and cooling systems will be a huge relief.
With the help of a grant from the Tyler ISD Foundation, Lee Project Manager Cherie Jones and John Tyler Project Manager Brady Beddingfield have been giving construction science students at the district's Career and Technology Center an up-close look at career paths available.
Students also heard from Loper and WRL Construction Superintendent Michael Palmer about becoming successful when college is not the right path for them.
Loper said that growing up he wanted to work with his hands. After graduating from Tyler ISD he went into construction. He worked his way up to a position of building new stores for Brookshire Grocery Co. before taking his job at Tyler ISD.
With both schools set to fully open in 2021, it's possible some in the construction science classes can take what they are learning and make their mark on the new facilities.