Repurposing a building in a school district can save much money, use available areas and solve a problem at the same time. In Friendswood ISD a unique building has been transformed into the newinnovative Vocational and Daily Living Skills Transition Center for SpecialEducation students.
The building is known as the former Friendswood Junior High “round building.” Builtin 1965 by the architect firm, Rustay, Martin and Vale, the building was a newconcept for an elementary school with all classrooms circling around the main area which was the library. Architects and interested design individuals fromacross the nation made special trips to see the new building concept. It wasFriendswood Elementary in the beginning and ended up part of the FriendswoodJunior High complex in later years. Now it has stood empty for three years.
Once again its special shape will enhance the project for the center.
Thespacious building opened for students in August and has been in the remodelingmode all during the fall. The center houses students in the 18 to 22 year oldage range who have previously been in classrooms at Friendswood High School for eight years.
These students now have the opportunity to participate in graduation with their peersafter their fourth year at the high school, and begin attending the TransitionCenter just as their peers are moving on to further studies or vocational activities. Special Education students from the JH and FHS also utilizet he Transition Center to learn various skills.
The new center has two separate pre-vocational skills labs, a fully functional residential-style kitchen with handicap accessibility, living room, bedroom, and laundry room for training in personal housekeeping and daily living skills, an exercise/adaptive PE room/gym, and additional space for training of needed skills. A local Eagle Scout has also set up a container garden and will beworking with the students at the center teaching gardening skills.
The Legends of Friendswoodorganization has donated $15,000 to FISD from funds raised at their 2013 annual golf tournament. A large part of this funding< $11,000, hashelped to complete the remodeling. In addition to their fundingcommitment, Legends of Friendswood hosted a Community Shower on November 13, to help fulfill the needs of small appliances, living and bedroom furnishings and gardening tools to be usedat the Transition Center.
The monies donated will beused to purchase items still needed to furnish the center such as, dining table and chairs, bedroom furniture and barstools. Gift cards from Target and Home Depot will be used to purchasea washer and dryer, gardening supplies, as well as, home furnishings such as dishes and other kitchen supplies, bedding and towels.
In addition, funds will beused to complete their print shop with a laser color printer, commercialshredder, as well as needed computers and iPads for student use. Monies left over will be used topurchase supplies for various skill training, i.e. laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, groceries, etc.
“Without the support of the Board of Trustees the Transition Center would not exist. We are very grateful to have an idealenvironment where students with special needs can learn the skills they willneed to continue their life outside of Friendswood ISD,” Superintendent TrishHanks said. “We had a very successful “Community Shower” for our Transition Center thanks to Legends of Friendswood. They sponsored the event and donated $11,000 to the center. At the event, we received many gifts to stock our kitchen and pantry. We also received numerous gift cards in the amount of $1550 and $4,115 in cash donations.”
A generous donation of granite and tile for the kitchen have also been a great addition to completethe kitchen area.
Those attending the shower were given tours and had a chance to visit with the director of the center, David McKeel as well as see some of the students who call the center their next step in school.
“This is a dream come true for so many and will be a great support system as well as learning environment for our kids,” Hanks said.
“We thank the FISD Board of Trustees for embracing the vision of the Transition Center. We thank Legends of Friendswood for kicking off the giving with their generous donation and for sponsoring this event. We thank Friendswood ISD and the community of Friendswood for their thoughtful response.”