Fort Bend ISD granted petition to exhume remains found at historic cemetery (6/4/2018)
FORT BEND ISD (June 4, 2018) – A court has granted Fort Bend ISD permission to begin the process of exhuming human remains discovered at the construction site of the James Reese Career and Technical Center. In a petition filed in the 434th District Court, Fort Bend ISD sought permission to exhume human remains from the FBISD burial site for the purposes of further forensic investigation.
In April, Fort Bend ISD, under the direction of the Texas Historical Commission (THC), announced the discovery of a historic cemetery at the construction site, located at University Boulevard and Chatham Avenues in Sugar Land. Since then, archeologists on site have conducted further exploratory work and established the cemetery’s perimeter, and discovered a total of 94 graves. The petition granted June 4, 2018 will allow the exhumation of graves so that forensic anthropologists and archaeologists can gather additional data regarding the cemetery, including the sex, age, race, medical condition, and possible causes of death of the individuals who are buried at the site. All exhumation of graves will comply with the requirements of Chapter 711 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, THC Antiquities Permit #8197 and all laws that pertain to the exhumation of remains.
“We are appreciative of the Texas Historical Commission’s guidance during this process, and we hope to begin further analysis soon to ensure that we are properly honoring the deceased and identifying an appropriate location for reinterment,” said FBISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Dupre. “As the process to learn more about this site continues, we remain committed to honoring the history of those buried at the site.”
The exhumation will be an extensive and methodical process, and due to the number of graves, is anticipated to take up to three months. Construction work continues on the James Reese Career and Technical Center in the areas not impacted by the archaeological work.
Construction of the James Reese Career and Technical Center began in 2017. The District exhausted due diligence during the excavation phase of the project, and contracted Goshawk Environmental Consulting, Inc. to supervise the project. During the observations, which included land clearing, trenching and excavations, there was no evidence of archaeological artifacts or remains found. During the next phase of the project, bones were discovered and the archaeologist was once again called out to review the findings. In the months that followed, the archaeologist established a perimeter at the site, identifying a total of 94 burials.
Fort Bend ISD is in full compliance with construction permits and plans to continue to comply with any other permits required by the State. Burial sites are regulated by the Texas Health Code.
Fort Bend ISD purchased the land in 2011, and construction of the James Reese Career and Technical Center began in 2017. When complete, it will offer advanced junior and senior level courses and give students an opportunity to explore careers in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Arts and Video Communications, Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, Education and Training, Information Technology, Law and Public Safety, Manufacturing and Transportation and Logistics.
The state-of-the-art facility is funded through the 2014 Bond Program, which included $59 million dollars earmarked for CTE improvements. The center was named in honor of James Reese, a former FBISD math teacher who later served as the first FBISD Vocational Director. Reese’s career in education spanned a total of 36 years, with 33 in FBISD. He passed away in 2009.