On Monday, Germantown Municipal School District opened its 42,974-square-foot addition at the school — a project that began three years ago.
“It’s a fantastic space where students really want to come in and learn and engage with their teachers and classes,” said Ryan Strain, GMSD Board of Education chairman and an alumnus of Houston Middle.
It’s the first major update to Houston Middle in decades, according to Superintendent Jason Manuel, who served as Houston Middle’s third principal.
In typical GMSD fashion, the building uses many windows to allow natural light into the building. LED lighting made the school bright and inviting despite gloomy weather.
Monday afternoon, GMSD hosted a ribbon-cutting. Teachers were joined by city and state leaders and community stakeholders who looked around smiling in wonder.
The new addition adds two art rooms, two STEM labs, a new gymnasium and a band room as well as bathrooms and conference space. A large metal mustang is hung prominently in the hallway.
Previously, three art teachers shared one art room in the old building. In the new building, the two are connected by shared storage and have their own kiln room. One art teacher remains the old building.
While the building will provide space for about 200 more pupils, there’s opportunity to use classrooms as they were intended, Manuel noted.
Rooms originally meant for classroom instruction were repurposed as art rooms and science labs in the old building, but they were never designed for that. Those rooms can be returned to traditional classrooms as other classes transition to the new space, specifically designed for their subjects.
“It’s going to change the way they can do the programming,” Manuel said. “That is going to be the neat part.”
The old band room had low ceilings and a small closet for storage. The new band room has vaulted ceilings, with paneling enhancing the acoustics. It also has three small rooms attached where ensembles or certain instrument groups can receive individual instruction. There are also locker cubbies varying in size for their instruments. The vaulted ceilings can allow other groups, like color guard, to utilize the space.
The gym will serve both HMS students and Germantown’s Parks and Recreation basketball leagues. It has six retractable goals and a curtain to divide the room into two regulation size courts, allowing multiple physical education classes or games simultaneously. About 1,000 people can sit on the new bleachers. Frosted glass allows natural light in the space and horses painted on the wall pay homage to the school mascot, the Mustangs.
There is also a true concession stand for events. Previously, items were stashed in a closet, and placed on a table during events.
For Houston High soccer, a new locker room will serve ladies in the fall and men in the spring. Manuel described it as “collegiate-level.” Wooden lockers reflect the needs of students today. Each has USB ports. The red cushions sit inside the lockers against black walls reading “We are Houston.” A large “H” is painted in the center of the room.
“You don’t have many like that around here,” said Manuel, who won two national titles and five state championships with the Mustangs as an assistant coach.
The City of Germantown contributed $5.5 million to the expansion, including $500,000 earmarked for student safety enhancements.
The school is the last of the six brick-and-mortar schools to have a secure entrance. Visitors are buzzed into the school office before gaining access to the rest of the building.
The main entrance has shifted to Johnson Road, and the bus entrance will remain on Johnson, but it looks different. However, it does not change the number of buses queued. There is additional parking for after-hours events and the carline will allow more than 60 cars on-site to help minimize neighborhood impacts. Monday, HMS administrators were placing signage to help parents adjust to the change.
Grinder Taber Grinder was the contractor on the project, and A2H was the architectural firm.
In addition to the added space, the original building was updated with new ceiling tiles, LED lights and HVAC improvements.
There were challenges with site constraints and doing construction while school was ongoing in the original building.
“You look at all the schools, they all have unique sites, unique programs,” Stewart Smith, A2H principal and architecture practice leader, said. “The thing that’s more consistent is providing a quality and great environment for learning.”
Smith looked around Monday, pleased GTG executed the plan and implemented the design.
“It’s neat to see a vision started even before I was on the board — the hard work that goes into that and the attention to detail,” Strain said.