• March 7, 2024

Rio Hondo ISD donates ‘Old High School’ to City

Rio Hondo ISD donates ‘Old High School’ to City
The “Old Rio Hondo ISD High School”

RIO HONDO, TX – The Rio Hondo Independent School District (RHISD) Board of Trustees voted to donate the “Old High School” to the City of Rio Hondo during a regular meeting held March 4, 2024. The donation, which encompasses approximately two and a half acres of land, marks a pivotal moment in the town’s history as the building will be repurposed to serve as Rio Hondo’s new cultural hub – becoming the new city hall, a public incubator for entrepreneurial assistance and a museum to preserve local history.

Located south of the RHISD Administration Building, the Old High School holds a special place in the hearts of many residents as its halls bustled with students from the early 1900s to the late ’90s. Since then, the building has remained a landmark of community pride and tradition.

According to the RHISD Board, the donation of the Old High School will usher in a new era for the City of Rio Hondo, focusing on growth while maintaining its cultural roots and color.

“We’re breathing new life into a historical, beautiful building that has not been fully utilized in some time,” said RHISD Board President Jaime Lopez. “The repurposing of the Old High School benefits the residents of Rio Hondo as the new building will regain its landmark status similar to the Rio Hondo Bridge.”

Lopez, who attended classes at the Old High School, said the collaboration with the city is ushering a new phase of economic growth and prosperity to the district while still honoring the city’s storied past.

“The building is located downtown, across from the only supermarket in the city,” he said. “As the new City Hall, it will be conveniently located for residents, and once the museum and public incubator come to fruition, residents will see how the city can grow economically while staying true to its roots.”

Ultimately, the donation of the building will bring opportunity, according to the RHISD Board President.

“Businesses that may grow from the assistance of the future public incubator may end up establishing in Rio Hondo,” Lopez said. “That would benefit the district and growth of the city as businesses attract families and students.”

Echoes of History

The halls of the Old High School whisper tales of days gone by, weaving stories passed down through the years into the present-day scenery. Once alive with the buzz of students eager to learn, it now stands as a gentle reminder of Rio Hondo’s growth.

Longtime Rio Hondo resident Leslie Howland, class of 2002, said she can trace her family’s lineage back through the early ages of the city.

“For three generations, my family walked those halls,” said Howland. “As a young student, I wandered the corridors, imagining the lives of those who came before me and the legacy they left behind.”

The old high school is a monument to the community, symbolizing tradition and pride. For Howland and many others, it represents more than just a building—it embodies the enduring spirit of Rio Hondo’s past, present and future.

“The building is a focal point in the community, and although the purpose may be different, I am excited for the opportunity for future generations to be able and walk the same halls,” she said. “It’s a chance to honor the community’s heritage while supporting the opportunity for future growth.”

After thinking over the donation and reflecting on the memories shared at the Old High School, Howland said she is glad the building will serve the public in a different capacity.

“Realistically, I don’t think students would have the same learning experience in the Old High School as they are having in the current buildings,” Howland said. “Education is becoming more integrated with technology, and the current facilities are better suited for modern learning. I’m glad the Old High School will begin serving the public again – especially since it will pay homage to the history the building holds.”

According to RHISD Superintendent Raul J. Treviño, the donation stems from the school district and city’s shared vision for the growth of Rio Hondo.

“As we donate the Old High School to the City of Rio Hondo, we are not merely transferring a building; we are igniting a shared vision of growth and revitalization,” Treviño said. “Our aim is to breathe new life into Rio Hondo, fostering its growth while honoring and preserving its cherished history. Together, we envision a future where our community thrives, where progress and tradition coexist and where every resident takes pride in calling Rio Hondo home.”

By bringing people back into the nearly 100-years-old building, the Old High School will once again promote the exchange of human stories – particularly of people who studied, visited or taught there, said the Superintendent.

“This amazing building is a lasting record of who the people of Rio Hondo have been and reopening it to the people of this city will help create a visible and tangible connection to the community’s history and culture,” Treviño said. “We are elated that this iconic structure will be preserved for future generations to enjoy through the intentional preservation plans that the City of Rio Hondo has for this beloved building.”

Rio Hondo Reimagined

With the donation of the Old High School, Rio Hondo embarks on a journey of transformation. Beyond serving as a mere physical structure, the repurposed building symbolizes the town’s commitment to innovation and renewal. As it transitions into Rio Hondo’s new cultural epicenter, the Old High School will serve as a catalyst for community engagement, creativity, and economic development.

Rio Hondo Mayor Gus Olivarez said the goal of the city is to keep the building functional for the future of Rio Hondo.

“This building has a lot of meaning to a lot of people in our community,” Olivarez said. “While we were planning how we can spur growth in Rio Hondo, we researched and discovered that Rio Hondo does not have many places to start a business. Transforming the Old High School into our new City Hall and including a public incubator component is really going to develop our area and allow for new services to be provided to our citizens.”

Now, Rio Hondo embraces the future while honoring its past. The transformative initiative embodies the town’s spirit of resilience, community pride and forward-thinking vision. As Rio Hondo reimagines itself as a vibrant cultural hub, the Old High School stands as a symbol of hope, unity and possibility.

“This building will continue to be a historical monument in our community,” Olivarez said.

A cornerstone plaque recognizing the Rio Hondo ISD Board of Trustees that served during the construction of the Old High School, located south of the RHISD administration building.

A cornerstone plaque recognizing the Rio Hondo ISD Board of Trustees that served during the construction of the Old High School, located south of the RHISD administration building.


About Rio Hondo ISD

Rio Hondo ISD is a public school district located in Cameron County. The district is home to three campuses and approximately 1,500 students. Rio Hondo ISD is recognized for its low student-teacher ratio and family-friendly atmosphere. Rio Hondo also serves communities residing in Arroyo Colorado Estates, Lozano and Villa del Sol. To learn more about Rio Hondo ISD academic and extracurricular programs visit www.riohondoisd.net

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