The Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, the prestigious HISD magnet ranked 33rd in the nation, will be moving into a new downtown facility in the fall of 2016. Last night, the HISD Board of Trustees officially voted to accept the Texas Medical Center’s gift of a plot of land – currently home to the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center – which is to be the site of the new DeBakey campus. The land was originally offered to HISD in 2012, when the bond funding the new school building was proposed. Now, after two years of planning, the district is ready to move ahead with the development of the new campus.
The new school building, planned by WHR Architects, has been designed with high-level, hands-on instructional opportunities in mind. It will feature state-of-the-art labs modeled after those found in universities, including teaching labs for dentistry, rehabilitation, and patient care. These teaching labs will include specialized medical mannequins designed for use in undergraduate-level health science instruction.
The school will include a ground-floor cafeteria and four floors of classrooms laid out around a central open atrium, creating a spacious atmosphere despite the building’s relatively small size (195,000 square feet). In additional to instructional facilities, the school will include a gym, an arts center, a music room, and outdoor terraces. The new campus has been designed to accommodate as many as 1,000 students, allowing for minimal expansion beyond the current enrollment of 871 students.
The site, located at the intersection of Pressler and Holcombe in the heart of downtown Houston, is within the Medical Center and within easy walking distance of Rice University. As a dedicated magnet school for health professions which originally opened at Baylor College of Medicine, DeBakey has always had close ties to the Medical Center. This connection enables the school to give its students extraordinary opportunities – for instance, the option to shadow doctors on rotations at Ben Taub Hospital as part of their coursework. The new campus location will facilitate existing opportunities and create the potential for even greater student involvement in the Medical Center.
The existing building on the site, the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, is the last non-garage remnant of the Shamrock Hotel, an old Houston landmark. WHR Architects project manager Mary Le Johnson has said that HISD is expected to file permits for the demolition of the conference center by early 2015. The general contracting company Tellepsen Builders will supervise the demolition and the construction of the new school facility. Construction is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016-2017 school year.
The current DeBakey High School building at 3100 Shenendoah St. is owned by HISD, but the land it sits upon is owned by the Medical Center. According to the original proposal, HISD will donate the current high school building to the Texas Medical Center when the school moves to its new facility. The old site will then be turned into a health clinic.
The construction of the new campus is being funded by the HISD bond which was passed in 2012. The bond allocated $1.89 billion to reconstruct and renovate 40 HISD schools; $64 million of that is being put towards the new DeBakey facilities.
Images courtesy of swamplot.com.