By STEVE SOUTHWELL
steve@LewisvilleTexan.com

Two of Lewisville’s oldest public schools could see the wrecking ball in a couple of years. Others might be relocated. New campuses will be built, and older buildings refreshed and repaired. Across the district, $750 million worth of priority one projects need to happen in the next six to seven years, depending on the outcome of a process with the Facility Advisory Committee, and a bond election that could happen next May.

The Board of Trustees met in workshop session at Career Center East Tuesday night, Sept. 27, to hear from the administration about facility needs throughout the district.

Lewisville ISD Superintendent Dr. Kevin Rogers presented the board with a list of projects ranked according to three priority levels: Priority one items are those the district must do, based on security, safety, and enrollment growth. Priority two are should-do items for instructional and program needs, and priority three items are those the district would like to do as enhancements.

The Facility Advisory Committee, comprised of nearly 90 community members from across the district, is in the process of meeting to provide guidance and on facility needs. According to the district, this committee will ultimately deliver a recommendation for consideration by the Board of Trustees.

District CFO Mike Ball gave the board some background on how the district staff identified the top priority facilities projects for the district. He also noted that the district is working on an education specifications, or “Ed Spec” document to help define actual needs for each type of educational facility. He also noted that the district had consulted with experts and determined inflation factors that would apply to costs based on the timing of when the various projects were bid.

Hedrick Middle School and Hedrick Elementary School are connected, and share a common kitchen. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
Hedrick Middle School and Hedrick Elementary School are connected, and share a common kitchen.
(Photo by Steve Southwell)

Hedrick Elementary and Middle

Although the list presented was long and included many projects, big changes were discussed for Hedrick Elementary, Hedrick Middle and College Street Elementary schools.

District officials presented the board with two initial options for the Hedrick campuses on Bellaire Boulevard: tear them both down and rebuild them both, or tear them both down and only rebuild the middle school.

“The rationale behind that is that there are some logistical issues to rebuild two schools on one site,” said Rogers. “Whether or not our typical schools can even fit on the current site, and if you’re going to rebuild two schools on one site, you’re going to have to displace students for 18 months to two years anyway, so that’s why those two options are there,” he said. “My recommendation is to allow the community Facilities Advisory Committee to hear both sides. I think there’s pros and cons to both plans,” said Rogers.

If only the middle school is rebuilt, one of the plans includes money to add 10 classrooms to another elementary school, which would add 222 students in capacity. “We’ve looked to see if it is feasible, if it’s doable. It is doable. there are numerous plans to make it work,” said Rogers.

Rogers said that although the site could hold two campuses, it would not fit two campuses that use the district’s current footprint for new elementary and middle schools. If both schools are replaced, there would have to be more compact plans, building up with multiple stories rather than spreading out. Even then, it would still be a tight fit, to get middle school athletic fields and play areas included.

“Hedrick Elementary may be one of our worst schools from a physical features perspective,” said board member Tracy Miller, who attended the meeting via videoconference. “It has to be dealt with, and it has to be dealt with with a sense of urgency,” he said.

“Whether that is on the same footprint or not, we’ve got to let the facts be our friend,” said Miller. “I’m sure that there are a lot of staff members and parents that will have a lot of feelings, and we should take those into consideration so nobody will be left out or disrespected, but I think we all agree that campus has to go in its current form. And if we can’t build it and redo Hedrick Elementary, then we have to make some decision that’s maybe tougher than just replacing it.”

The buildings have problems that make remodels less cost-effective than a rebuild. “[It is] the same reason why we rebuilt Lewisville High School instead of spending $20-something million four or five years ago,” said Rogers.

Rogers said that the district currently does not have an option on the table for rebuilding Hedrick Elementary elsewhere. “There are surrounding schools that are not at capacity,” said Rogers. “So how can we be better stewards of the capacity we already have?— that’s why the discussion became.”

The staff at Hedrick schools have been informed of the possibilities for the campuses, according to Rogers. “I will tell you, I had the great opportunity – and not a fun event, but to go and talk to the Hedrick staff. I didn’t want them to hear about this option after the fact,” said Rogers. “No matter what, we’re going to take care of those students, and we’re going to take care of our staff— period,” he said. “That’s always been the case for LISD, and always will be the case as long as I’m here.”

According to LISD, if the changes take place, they could occur as soon as the 2018/19 school year, with construction taking 18-24 months for a middle school, and 12-18 months for an elementary school. It is contingent on the Facilities Advisory Committee’s recommendations, and voter approval of bonds to pay for the construction. That election could be as soon as May 2017.

News of the Hedrick options hit Facebook Wednesday morning, with a post on the City of Lewisville Facebook group by Monica Antonacci, encouraging parents to contact the district and resist the idea of not rebuilding Hedrick Elementary:

“…Hedrick family, these are your kids and this is your community. We can’t let this happen! Parents of Parkway, Creekside, Vickery, and Forest Vista students….if this plan is approved, your children’s classrooms are about to get way more crowded!! We have to let our district and our school board know that this is NOT ok!… “

Antonacci asked parents to contact the school administration and email or write letters against the plan. “Let them know that all of our children deserve better!” she wrote. “We have the power to vote no on the next bond election.”

Late Wednesday, Dr. Rogers issued a statement regarding the plans, saying that the district wants to continue meeting the needs of its students, and living up to the high expectations the community has for the district’s learning environments. He said that it would be premature to speculate on what the final projects would be.

“It is critical for our community to understand as we review our immediate and future facility needs, many options will be discussed,” wrote Rogers.. “No decisions have been made, but I can assure you, doing what is best for our students will always be at the forefront of our thought process.”

Rogers wrote that the district wanted to be equitable in the types of spaces and learning environments provided, and that the main reason for the considerations at Hedrick was that the site would not easily accommodate new schools that would meet current building standards for new campuses. “The Hedrick community would benefit from a new middle school campus, and would still have a neighborhood school,” Rogers wrote.

Rogers also addressed the concern about over-crowding at nearby elementary schools. “Class sizes at the elementary level are capped at a 22-1 ratio for grades K-4, so more students on a campus would mean more teachers and classes, not larger class sizes,” he wrote. “More students on a campus would likely result in that campus having the ability to offer more specials classes to meet the needs of our students, which is a benefit to the entire campus.”

Prices were not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, but a slideshow from a previous meeting had the Hedrick Middle School replacement cost at $53.8 million, and the elementary school at $32.8 million.

College Street Elementary is the oldest school operating in Lewisville ISD. It may move to Mill Street. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
College Street Elementary is the oldest school operating in Lewisville ISD. It may move to Mill Street. (Photo by Steve Southwell)

College Street Elementary move

The district’s oldest operating school, College Street Elementary School may also see a big change. Rogers told the board of an idea to move it to Mill Street. “Let me give you a scenario,” said Rogers to the board. “We have our most crowded elementary in Central Elementary, we have another – Lewisville Elementary – one of our newest elementary schools in Lewisville proper, but already has portables, then we have College Street Elementary, which is our oldest school.” he continued. “And 300 of College Street’s students actually have to attend Central Elementary, because of capacity. So what the thought was on this situation was to tear down [the Purnell Center]— it’s gotta go anyway.”

The Purnell Support Center currently houses the TEAMS program – a therapeutic environment for students with maladaptive behaviors. It also hosts Focus on the Future, which offers post-secondary transition services for LISD students with developmental disabilities. Programs there would likely be moved to other facilities that could be refurbished under the facility program discussed.

Rogers said they would rebuild the elementary school on Mill Street – facing Mill Street. They would then take the three elementary schools and make three schools with about 650 kids in each. It would provide capacity for growth in the area, and allow students currently zoned for College Street to go back to a home campus.

The proposed building’s optimum capacity would be 720, with a total capacity of 800.

“Some of the current Central students who should go to College Street would go back to where their boundaries really are,” said Rogers. Miller noted that it was important to point out that the district is not just looking at Hedrick. “As a board and as a district, I think it’s important to say as a matter of equity we’re not looking at just ‘should we not rebuild Hedrick and redistribute those kids, we’re looking at multiple components’”

If built, the new school would get a new name. Though the price of the new elementary school was not discussed in the meeting, a prior meeting’s slideshow put the cost at $32.8 million.

“What makes a house a home? The people you share it with,” wrote Rogers. “Our schools are no different. Our students, our staff members, our families – they are why our schools are home for our students. Our commitment to providing them the love, support and services they need in order to be safe, secure, happy and well-cared for will remain unchanged, regardless of any facility-related decision that may be made in the future.“

Board members also heard about the district's technology planning process. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
Board members also heard about the district’s technology planning process. (Photo by Steve Southwell)

Other projects

Numerous projects in various categories were listed on an 11×17-inch sheet of paper that board members received, but that was not made available to the public in attendance. Though the sheet had various options and estimated prices, the pricing was not discussed verbally on each item, or shown on the video screen.

Among the larger or higher-priority projects discussed (Priority listed in parenthesis after each, if known):

  • A new elementary school to be built on Josie Lane on the east side of the district. (1)
  • A new middle school, also to be built on Josie Lane. (1)
  • A new special events center to hold 10,000 people, or optionally a smaller performing arts center that would hold 1,500. (3)
  • New multi-purpose athletic facilities at Hebron and The Colony high schools (2)
  • Tear down Hedrick Elementary and Hedrick Middle schools, and either rebuild both at the same location, or only rebuild the middle school. (1)
  • Move College Street Elementary to LISD’s property on Mill Street, which is currently the home of the Purnell center.
  • Add 10 classrooms to Bluebonnet Elementary (2)
  • Add 10 classrooms to LHS Harmon
  • New entry addition to The Colony High School
  • Create a new career tech center for the west side of the district on the same 80-acre property where the Ben Harmon campus and West-side Aquatic Center are currently located. This would take the place of the current Dale Jackson Career Center.
  • Field House for Hebron High School
  • New athletic ancillary building at Lewisville High to replace various metal outbuildings around the stadium.
  • Softball field improvements at The Colony (1) and Hebron high schools (2)
  • New press boxes for football stadiums at Lewisville and The Colony. New press box for LHS baseball field.
  • Various track and turf replacements at high schools
  • Various safety and security system upgrades
  • HVAC control upgrades
  • Flooring, Roofing, and Electrical upgrades across the district (1)
  • Parking lot at Marcus High School (1)
  • Install new campus entrances with ballistic protection glass.
  • Musical instrument replacements
  • Furniture replacements – including developing a program for periodic replacement as it wears out.
  • Improved classroom facilities at LISDOLA, the district’s outdoor learning area.

The board provided feedback to the administration that the list was complete, that priorities given were acceptable, and that all of the items should be passed to the Facility Advisory Committee to come up with a plan.

They will get presentations from the staff throughout the remainder of the year, then convene early in 2017 to get a plan together. The trustees would then receive that plan and decide whether to call a bond election.

Ball gave the board a few scenarios for what the district’s borrowing capacity could be. Each scenario considers very conservative rates of property value growth in the district, according to Ball. On the top end, Ball said the district could borrow up to $1.1 billion, with an even division of bond sales over four years. That amount would put the district at the statutory cap of $0.50 per $100 for a debt service property tax rate. The priority one items total $750 million, which Ball said would make only a minimal tax rate impact for the first three years, then would take that rate up to 45 cents. A $650 million sale would have little impact for the first two years, then top out at 43 cents.

At Tuesday night’s meeting the board also heard from staff about technology plans, and plans for summer 2017 construction using the remaining funds of about $35 million from the 2008 bond package.

Dr. Rogers encourages any community member with questions to contact him at superintendent@lisd.net.

The Lewisville Texan Journal will report back on the process as we learn more. Stay tuned.

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