For the most part, they are worn, time-battered, under-equipped and beyond meaningful repair. That's why HISD wants to replace or drastically renovate 28 separate high schools.
That will cost you $1.9 billion.
"We need to be preparing kids for 21st century jobs and to do that, we believe we need to have facilities designed to work with those kids," HISD superintendent Terry Grier said. "We know if we are going to recruit our top teachers, we have to have safe modern facilities. Some of our facilities are 75 years old. I've been following the work FOX 26 has been doing in just showing the community what these schools look like and I've had lots of people tell me, 'We didn't know'."
While critics readily concede many HISD facilities are crumbling, some fear handing over that much cash without credible accountability and protection from waste.
"We want a transparency that perhaps we have not had in the past," Grier said.
To encourage public confidence, he said each campus slated for construction will have an oversight committee of parents, teachers and community leaders. Monthly progress reports and expenditures for each project will be posted online with video updates. Additionally, he said the district has both audited and reconstituted its purchasing system to minimize waste and adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for cost over-runs.
"We are not going to continue to do business with people who have done shoddy work in the past," he said. "Our taxpayers deserve better than that; our students certainly deserve better than that as well."
Only one of nine HISD trustees voted against the building plan. We offered board member Greg Meyer an opportunity to blast the tax raising proposal, but he declined to issue public criticism.
"I feel it is very important that the factual information is given to where voters can make an informed decision come November," Meyers said.
Given the irreversible decay of so many structures, Grier contends HISD is at a critical juncture and taxpayers have the power to choose the path.
"We don't want to lose all of Houston's best and brightest kids to the suburbs," he said. "I don't want to lose them to private school. I want to be the school district of choice for Houston's parents."
Criticized for its overly cozy relationships with vendors and contractors in the past, he said HISD's board recently approved a more stringent ethics policy, designed to head off even the appearance of impropriety on the part of the district's elected leaders.