Four-and-a-half years after voters in the Navasota school district approved a $55 million bond to upgrade and add on to multiple facilities and buildings, the final two phases are open to students.
Brule Elementary School students began using the newly renovated Rock Gym when they started the new semester this month, and the upgraded Brosig Performing Arts Center has hosted two concerts and will host district One Act Play this semester.
The Rock Gym and the Brosig Performing Arts Center renovations were the fourth and fifth phases of the district’s 2017 bond package that also included new science classrooms at the Navasota Junior High and Navasota High School campuses, a new career and technical education wing at the high school, an agricultural science shop, new Career Technical Education programs at the high school and additions to Brule and High Point Elementary Schools. All that is left now, Navasota ISD Superintendent Stu Musick said, are punch-list items.
“We’re very excited,” Ronnie Gonzalez, assistant superintendent of operations at the district, said. “The students are very excited. The teachers are very excited about the new facilities all with the bond, and so we are very excited about the updates because we’re able to now offer more opportunities for students, especially at Navasota High School with that CTE wing.”
Brosig Performing Arts Center represented the final phase of the bond and hosted its first concert – a choir concert – Dec. 6, just three days after the district was granted access to the space.
Musick said it’s been exciting to see community support for the bond, which was approved by 70% of the voters, and to see the project that first began construction in the summer of 2018 come to fruition.
“The community’s been so excited to hear updates along the way, but now to get to see it and see our kids and our programs and classes in those spaces, there’s just a real neat sense of excitement,” he said.
Gonzalez said not only is there a heightened sense of pride in the schools and the district, but also students are returning to Navasota who had left the district to go to other schools in the county. The reasons, he said, are the upgrades and the additional programs at the high school.
He was most excited to see the district address the lack of science classrooms and labs at the junior high and high school campuses, saying the seven new science labs at the high school and four new labs at the junior high school were important additions to both campuses.
Musick said his favorite projects are Rock Gym and Brosig Performing Arts Center.
“I love old buildings, and I love being able to save old buildings, and the consensus of our community was we wanted to save our historic old buildings,” he said. “… The old Rock Gym and Brosig Auditorium are just cool buildings, and to think about what it was like in its heyday and to be able to save that and bring it back and make it new again is just really cool. The community’s really excited about that.”
Prior to its renovation, the main entrance to Rock Gym had been covered by a bathroom and concession addition from the 1970s or 1980s and in the years since had been closed and used as a storage space, Musick said.
Standing in Rock Gym during a phy ed class, looking at the original bleachers from when the facility was first opened in the 1930s, Musick said he can imagine what the space would have felt like on a Friday night in 1950 at a Navasota versus Brenham basketball game.
The Rock Gym project included removing the addition, replacing the roof, repainting the ceiling, adding a storage closet and concession and bathroom area, replacing the windows and floors – though the district tried to save the original floors – and refinishing one set of bleachers. The bleachers from one side of the gym had to be removed to allow for a wider court.
Beyond preserving the structure of the historic building, which was built as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program in the 1930s, the renovated gymnasium gives Brule Elementary School its own gym. The students had previously been holding PE classes in the cafeteria, requiring the tables to be taken down and set back up again throughout the day.
“The Rock Gym is their PE classroom,” Musick said.
The Brosig Performing Arts Center project saw the 1952 building get a larger stage, a new roof, renovated bathrooms designed to match the building’s 1950s style, a prop-making space, four new dressing rooms, upgraded lighting technology and a climate-controlled room for a 1940s Steinway piano that was donated to the district in the 1950s.
When the district asked the community to prioritize the projects being considered for the bond, Musick said, the Brosig facility was at the top of the list with 86% of respondents saying they wanted to see the district save it. That response meant the district gave the project extra thought and attention, knowing they would be trying to save a building that was in bad shape, he said.
“We knew it was either time to tear it down and build a new auditorium or it’s time to do something because we’re fixing to lose our auditorium and we won’t have a choice,” he said.
With the new renovations, the district is poised to host the district One Act Play competition, which Navasota High School theater teacher Stephanie FitzSimon said is the “ultimate goal” of a theater program.
“It’s such a good thing for such a little community to have because [the students] don’t have this anywhere else,” she said. “We are growing the program for theater and fine arts, and they feel like they were cared about just as much as the athletic program because it was made for them to use.”
She is excited to share the facility now with students from other school districts, who might not have access to a performing arts center.
Thanking the community for the support, Musick said he is excited not only for the opportunities the bond projects give to current students, but also the opportunities they will provide to future students and the community in general decades from now.