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Should taxpayers rebuild Lamar HS?

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Amid one of the most prosperous zip codes in America, you will find Lamar High School but quite frankly, there's nothing "Cadillac" about this 79-year-old campus.

"We do the very best we can with what we have but even here in midst of this area, our buildings are old; they are outdated; they are crumbling," Lamar High Principal James McSwain said.  "The people across the street have money, but we are just like everybody else.  We are a public school."

Exhibit #1: depression-era classrooms built for 15 students, now crammed with up to 40.

"It is less than half the size of a modern classroom," McSwain said.

Exhibit #2: jerry-rigged air-conditioners that consistently fail to keep kids and instructors cool.

"These systems tend to go out on a regular basis," McSwain said.  "They are old and when they do, everybody sits in here and sweats or you have to move the class."

It's a problem that's grown chronic on a campus where 3,200 kids smash into half the space state regulators would consider adequate.  With students now required to complete 4 years of science, McSwain can muster just two outdated chemistry labs when six are needed.  Same goes for biology: Lamar's got two and the job demands 10.

"The technological systems are no where close to the 21st century," he said.

Beyond the main building, conditions are even worse.  In the PE and athletic department, there are just 15 functioning shower heads for 1,600 male students.

"No matter how many times they fix the faucets, the shower systems leak," McSwain said.  "There are leaks in the ceilings.  There are leaks in the walls."

There are leaks that have left dressing rooms perpetually damp and water damaged.

"It's pretty disgusting from that standpoint," McSwain said.  "Our kids deserve better."

Lamar alumni leader Fran Callahan said the case for replacement is overwhelming.

"If Houston wants to continue to be a great city, then most of its citizens come through these high schools," Callahan said.

McSwain puts the challenge this way.

"It's like sending soldiers into war with a steak knife," he said.  "You may get the job done, but it would be a whole better if you had the proper facilities."

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