A deep appreciation for what has marked the past quarter century at Cedar Brook Elementary was complemented by anticipation for the quarter century ahead at a Dec. 11 school groundbreaking event attended by students, teachers, community and proud graduates.
Cedar Brook’s groundbreaking marks the first Spring Branch ISD 2017 Bond project involving school additions and renovations to get officially under way. This phased-plan project, a part of the larger, voter approved, $898.4 million bond, will bring this campus up to current district standards and peak operational efficiency for decades ahead.
Under its construction and renovation plan, Cedar Brook will soon gain a building addition with six new classrooms, a new science lab, and two music rooms. Plans for interior renovations include the main entry, a centrally located library spaces, classrooms, and classroom collaboration areas. The school opened in 1993.
“Say goodbye to portable buildings outside,” SBISD’s Board of Trustees President Pam Goodson told the audience gathered for the groundbreaking. “Say goodbye to the cloudy skylight in the library. Say goodbye to the dark collaboration areas inside. We are about to let the light in!”
Goodson’s special remarks followed event welcoming and special introductions by SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D.
Houston City Council District A Member Brenda Stardig was among the speakers. “In case you haven’t heard, I’m Spring Branch proud!’ she exclaimed, highlighting her longstanding support for the neighborhood and school district.
Stardig won big praise from attending students and families for her gift bag filled with complimentary tickets during December to the Houston Zoo. Curly the Sloth is one of her favorite zoo animals!
Cedar Brook Elementary Student Council members Matthew Mai, Kara Bolaños and Solomon Barke led the Pledge of Allegiance in coordination with the Spring Branch Navy Jr. ROTC student drill team, which provided the flag ceremony.
Other student voices included 27 members of the Cedar Brook Elementary Choir, under the direction of Melissa Miles. Students dressed in matching choir T-shirts sang two songs, When I Believe, and Me Gusta Mi Escuela.
In SBISD, Cedar Brook is known widely for its two-way dual language program, the first student program of its kind in the district. The campus also boasts a history of strong student health-fitness programming.
Such notable work was highlighted by two teachers during back-to-back speeches.
Health-fitness teacher Marla Squires, a 38-year SBISD employee, joined Cedar Brook during its first year of operation. Back then, it was one of the few schools with a gym. Over the years, she has watched many students go on to wonderful adult careers.
“Just two months ago,” Squires told the crowd, “one former student came to say ‘Hi!’ in his U.S. Marine uniform. Just last year, there was a Houston police officer peering through the gym door. For a moment, I thought for sure someone might be in trouble. It was another former student who had come by to say ‘Hi.’ Those kind of days make it all worthwhile.”
Squire’s impact on Cedar Brook is legendary among health-fitness teachers, as well as other educators. She had a cargo net and climbing ropes installed to help her students think about being physically active throughout their lives, Next, she raised funds to install a nine-hole disc golf course and rock-climbing wall.
She was the spark behind Bike Around the Branch, a 22-mile-long bike ride along Memorial Drive. More recently, she has helped host six Great Pumpkin Fun Runs at Cedar Brook, taken students to citywide fun runs, and even sponsors an after-school jogging club with a colleague and co-teacher, Courtney Roberts.
In addition, Squires has helped beautify the campus with fundraising efforts that have resulted in irrigation, flowers, trees and shrubs. Two Spark Parks have been installed, including the current park setting. The small orchard next to the garden outside was another Squires mini-project.
“I could not have done this without a lot of help along the way from Cedar Brook staff, students, parents, many community members, and my wonderful teaching partners,” Squires said.
Perlita Ramirez-Robles, who has taught PreK dual language students for 17 years, started out as a student teacher here. She has now taught for 21 years, all here at Cedar Brook. She called out several students from the school’s first cohort of two-way, dual language program students for special recognition.
They included two Westchester Academy IB Diploma graduates: Karyn Schwab, a 2014 University of Houston graduate who is now an athletic assistant, coach and local Realtor; and Tara Schwab, also a UH graduate, who now works in finance.
Two current Spring Woods High students, Kurt and Kyle Ferguson, earned rounds of applause as dual language graduates. Kurt, a senior, has three college options: Texas Tech and Texas A&M universities, or the University of Arkansas. His brother, Kyle, plans to attend Sam Houston State or the University of Houston.
Five other program students and a current PreK student were also highlighted.
Principal Alejandra Perez thanked both the Board of Trustees and Dr. Blaine for their vision in planning for the future – at Cedar Brook, as well as across SBISD.
“We are so excited!” she proclaimed in her special remarks. “We believe that this new work and major renovation on our facilities will have a dramatic and positive impact on student instruction and our community for years to come – all because of the foresight and the planning of so many gathered here this afternoon.”
The special afternoon closed with an unveiling of an architectural rendering of the renovated Cedar Brook Elementary followed by an outdoors groundbreaking event.
Huckabee Architects led the project update. Satterfield & Pontikes are contractors for construction.
Students and staff will remain on campus during the project, which will be done in phases through August 2021 to limit school year disruptions.