GPHS 50th Reunion committee views new CTE Building

Reunion set for October 12; Committee gives thumbs up to new building plans

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

A committee from the Galena Park High School Class of ’74 has been feverishly preparing to commemorate their 50th reunion when word reached the group that their alma mater building is on the chopping block for demolition. The shock immediately prompted questions from alumni, some of whom had remained in the district and were aware of the proposal, and others still close in the area.

The school was listed as a replacement on the most recent bond, the largest in the history of the district, for $530 million, a good bit of that amount dedicated to the replacement of Galena Park High School, and it passed by a wide margin.

After numerous questions, the group, along with members from the Class of ’75, originally wanted a tour of the old portion of the building where many of them made lifetime memories. However, it was prom weekend, and they were unable to tour that part — yet. However, Sonny Fletcher, senior director for Facility Planning & Construction, was able to give the curious group a tour of the new Career and Technology (CTE) building.

“I wasn’t sure that some of our classmates would come after we discovered we couldn’t walk down the hallways of our old school,” said former Jacketeer and committee member Carolyn Campbell Sapp, “but once we drove up and saw it from the outside, we were ready to get inside to see what was going on.”

The building is massive, spanning nearly three full city blocks, encompassing approximately 100,000-plus square feet of educational space, or the size of two football fields, including both end zones.

“Upon entry off Parkside Drive on the backside of the high school, students walk into a new cafeteria,” Fletcher said. “It is built with 720 students for capacity, allowing the administration to reduce the number of lunch times from four to three now.”

Fletcher said it would also mean that all the high schools would now be on the same lunch schedule, aiding in the timing of classes off campus. There’s also a large built in stage area for performances, meetings, or any other use.

Students will have four options for lunches in the new cafeteria: GPizza & Pasta, Bistro on Parkside (a nod to the historic street that runs north and south behind the school), Dement Grill (remembering the football field, Dement Stadium), and Keene Street Delicatessen (a tip of the hat to the street that runs in front of the high school). A little different from just the cafeteria and snack bar options five decades ago.

Plans for the high school began in earnest about six years ago, Fletcher said.

“It will be done in phases over the next four years,” he said, “because the footprint of the school is so small.”

A look down at either of the two adjacent hallways that takes students from the cafeteria into the remainder of the building shows the depth of the facility.

The first room off the east side of the building was the flower shop.

“There’s a presentation window here so that they can show off their arrangements,” he showed the exes.

There are tables for working on the arrangements and plenty of classroom space and refrigeration for the flowers.

Next to the floral corridor is a huge room with high ceilings needed for exhaust and piping for the welding workshop that hosts 42 different state-of the-art stations for individual students to work on their welding skills. An over-sized garage door opens to the outside where a crane on trollies can be used to receive deliveries of steel and welding supplies. Welding classes 1, 2, and 3 will be taught there and graduates from the program receive a certificate that helps them get on a job site.

Another rollup garage door leads to another huge room for auto mechanics. The car lifts were installed during the tour, and they have since taken delivery of the wheel balancer and alignment equipment. No paint and body, just mechanical classes for students.

At the end of the building is a suite for the robotics and engineering shop with several classrooms split down the middle by a large enough corridor and the students can host competitions there.

The hallway at the end is also an extra monitored entryway for the culinary arts dining room with multiple layers of security.

“In the kitchen, there are several teaching stations to demonstrate skills to the students,” Fletcher described it.

Upstairs is a television station for video production, pharmacy tech with a safe room for locking up medications, and next to it a medical tech room set up just like a hospital room with all the simulators.

There’s also a criminal justice corridor with jail cells for students to practice inmate transport, prelaw, and much more. The district partners with the sheriff’s office and constables for the justice program. A separate room is equipped for a judge’s chambers.

Business labs are set up with computers along the walls.

“To save energy, the rooms have lights that are motion-activated and turn off and on based on movement,” Fletcher said.

Campbell’s husband went to Deer Park and couldn’t help but give props to Galena Park for the investment in their students.

“He was so impressed,” Campbell said.

Fletcher estimated it would take approximately four years before the entire replacement of the high school is done.

“We will have to shuffle students from one place to another around campus while we tear down parts of the building and build the new one,” he said.

Judy Wright Elkins, who taught in GPISD for several years and was a Jacketeer in high school, was also blown away by the CTE building.

“I’m ready to come back to school,” she said.

The former students hope to make their final venture into the old school this fall when they gather for their 50th reunion in The Woodlands. Campbell said they hope to watch the Jacket football game on Friday night, tour the school one final time on Saturday, then that night enjoy time with their classmates.

The reunion is on October 12 at Crowne Plaza Shenandoah, 19333 David Memorial Dr., in Shenandoah, Texas and begins at 6 p.m.

The CTE building is set to open this August.

“Cost for the reunion is set at $60 until August 12 and then it will increase to $75,” Campbell said.

The last day to receive checks is September 30. Make checks payable to Cindy Stephens and mail to 24127 Fielding Reach Lane, Porter, TX 77365. Tickets at the door are $100 cash only. Pay can be made by Zelle with the reunion ID of 2816384848 (Carolyn Sapp Campbell’s name should come up).

For questions, email Cindy Irby Stephens at cimistephens@gmail.com or Carolyn Sapp Campbell at ccampbell55@verizon.net.

The CTE building is set to open this August.

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