After several hours of discussion, the Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees has decided to move forward with the Facility Advisory Committee’s $737.5 million bond recommendation unaltered. Hedrick Elementary will not be rebuilt under this package.
The board came to this decision late in the evening at the Feb. 9 workshop meeting, their first formal opportunity to discuss the bond. The 89-person FAC has been deliberating on more than 40 individual bond issues since July. The bond became a point of controversy in November 2016 when the committee decided it would not recommend rebuilding Hedrick Elementary, instead using the space to expand the attached Hedrick Middle School.
Superintendent Kevin Rogers effusively praised the Hedrick faculty and staff and made assurances that all concerns would be taken care of. Rogers said that the option to not rebuild Hedrick includes money built in to add rooms to surrounding elementary schools that will take on the student load. The teachers will also be relocated, so that the class ratio remains the same. Rogers also said that special programs and teacher training that made Hedrick unique will also transfer to the surrounding schools.
“Those are not just Hedrick Elementary School programs. LISD pays for those,” he said. “LISD will provide the transportation to take care of these students. Period.”
Board President Trisha Sheffield said while the specifics of the bond may change, she was hesitant to add more money on it. She also said she wanted to respect the time and effort of the FAC in coming to its conclusions, a sentiment the rest of the board echoed.
“I think the decisions we come to are better when there are more people involved,” she said. “I think the rationale, though not easy, around rebuilding the school, is sound.”
District CFO Mike Ball presented the final tax rates for the proposal. The I&S tax rate for the $737.5 million proposal rises steadily from the current 38 cents to 44.65 cents in 2022, at which point it starts to drop off. The plan would have the bond debt paid off by 2030, a decade or more earlier than comparable or nearby districts. Ball said that, when adjusted for inflation, the bond package has less buying power than 2008’s $697.7 million. He said that if as much as $50 million was added to the package, it would increase the tax rate by three quarters of a penny.
Along with the decision to not rebuild Hedrick, the board also individually discussed the provision to renovate existing facilities, three provisions to expand or build career and technology centers, the decision to make additions to Black Box Theater, the approval for a new Colony High School multi-purpose facility, approved press box replacements, new softball and practice fields for Hebron High School, LISDOLA expansions and wrestling room and classroom additions.
At the end of the meeting around 10 p.m., the board had a show of hands as to who was comfortable going forward with the bond as proposed. Only Angie Cox dissented, saying that Hedrick Elementary needed to be rebuilt. She proposed the approved expansions to Career Center East, coincidentally where the meeting was held, come out of the bond in exchange. Expanding the career center is budgeted at $11.8 million, while rebuilding Hedrick is budgeted at $34.2 million.
Cox said the information on Hedrick was not presented well to the FAC, and they would have made a different decision if it were presented a different way. She also produced plans for both Hedrick schools to be rebuilt on their current site that the board had not yet seen.
“I don’t feel like it was presented very well. I feel like if we went back and presented it today… the vote would be different,” she said. “This isn’t just about student achievement, this is about a community that has evolved around their school.”
The rest of the board, for several reasons, sided with not rebuilding the school. Vice president Tracy Scott Miller backed up Rogers in saying that the services provided at Hedrick would follow students wherever they went and said that future schools, if they were condensed into the current site, would be seen as substandard in the future. Rogers said that the current standard for Lewisville elementary schools was 11.9 acres and for middle schools was 18.3 acres, but the combined property the Hedrick schools sit on is just under 24 acres. Miller also pointed out that, according to most plans, the students would need to be relocated for at least a couple of years during construction anyway.
“To imply or insinuate that the only way to service these kids and these families… is within that footprint is unfair,” Miller said. “Somebody else will move into the area and they’ll go to a PTA meeting and say, ‘Well, why don’t we have this?’”
Board members Jenny Proznik and Katherine Sells echoed the idea of not wanting to go against the FAC’s decision. Sells noted that every committee member had the option to veto the package and did not.
Hedrick Elementary parent Amelia Palmer, who has helped lead the movement to rebuild the school, fought back tears at the workshop and said she was angry and sad. She said she remains highly skeptical of the board’s stances that services will continue to other schools and that the FAC’s decision needs to be honored.
“At Hedrick, all students get free breakfast and it is incorporated in their morning class time. Are they prepared to do this [for] all LISD schools? Who will pay for it? Will all LISD students have their school supplies provided for them now too?” she asked. “Priorities seem out of whack to me when board members are more concerned about green spaces, hurting the feelings of 89 adults or not having extra football fields over continuing to provide a currently successful and thriving elementary.”
The board will officially make a decision on Hedrick at its regular meeting Feb. 13. If it sends the bond up for a vote, it will be on the ballot in this May’s election.