After abc13 report, HISD admits some future schools will be delayed

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HISD admits some future schools will be delayed. (KTRK)

In the wake of a Ted Oberg Investigates report on delays in HISD's massive school building program, one of the top Houston school chiefs overseeing the program acknowledged to abc13 that more than a half-dozen schools will be late in opening.

Those include the next schools scheduled to open to students, including Eastwood Academy, Lamar, and Yates high schools, the High School for Law & Justice and Northside, formerly known as Jefferson Davis High School.

Also on the list of possible delays include Lawson Middle School -- formerly Dowling -- Parker Elementary School, as well as Yates and Bellaire high schools.

"Typically they will slip three to six months but shouldn't slip farther than that," said Dan Bankhead, the general manager-design for HISD's construction services department.

Bellaire High is probably the school having the biggest delay issues. Original plans had Bellaire opening this week. In revamped plans, construction is not due to begin until 2017. HISD officials have long acknowledged delays at the Meyerland school and were not a part of abc13's findings of delayed schools.
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An investigation into delays at HISD

This is the first time HISD has publicly acknowledged delays in any other schools. District officials, repeatedly and for weeks, have turned down abc13 interview requests to discuss potential delays in school openings.

Even late Tuesday it's not easy for parents and taxpayers to tell which of the district's other projects face problems. HISD's own website shows six of the eight schools Bankhead said whose timetables have "slipped" are on time.

Theses schools are all part of HISD's $2 billion bond program designed to build or rehab 40 schools throughout the district. It's the largest school bond program undertaking to have happened in Texas.

New schools began opening Tuesday to great fanfare. Six new schools will be open by the school starts on Aug. 22.

Bankhead was interviewed while giving a press tour at the new Condit Elementary School, a 83,000-square-foot building all ready for kids.

Indeed, all of HISD first six schools to open will be on time and on budget.

"We're extremely happy about the progress we've achieved so far," Bankhead said. "It's great to see the parents, the community, and the student faces as they see the schools, because that's what it's really about."
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As far as the next group: "Those face the construction challenges of the budgets, the unbelievable, unprecedented construction market -- overload, if you will," Bankhead said.

Bankhead suggested that community desires will contribute to some of those delays.

"We also heard from quite a few of those communities in terms of what... we needed to do to meet their needs," he said. "Instead of rushing, or pushing forward, we decided to stop, incorporate that and address those properly."

This is not the first hiccup in the district's bond program.

The original $1.9 billion bond voters approved in 2012 has ballooned by an additional $211 million.

An audit to find out exactly why the bond's budget was busted by such mammoth cost overruns has been completed and may be made public in September.
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