A proposed capital improvements issue on the ballot on April 7 – which includes construction of a new high school – will solve many space problems and correct the Houston School District’s building issues, the superintendent of the district said last week at a forum.
Dr. Dan Vandiver told those filling the Houston High School cafeteria that the project resolves several issues that hinder educational progress at the district, where the enrollment is about 1,000 students.
The proposal calls for construction of a new high school that connects with Hiett Gymnasium, converting the existing high school into middle school space and makes improvements to an existing library.
The student population has outgrown the high school cafeteria, which now serves three shifts to high school and middle school pupils. Vandiver said the process is disruptive to education: In the middle school, students arrive to their fourth-hour classes for 25 minutes of instruction, leave for lunch and return to start over in their classroom. Some board a bus at 6:30 a.m. and can’t get into the cafeteria until the third lunch shift.
The project also will solve problems with its library, which is well below the state’s mandate for square footage. A library is situated in the new high school building, and the existing one will connect to the present high school.
Security also will be enhanced for students and teachers. Under the current campus traffic pattern, students are in and out of several buildings, making it impossible to keep doors locked. The proposal will eliminate the need for students to float from building to building, allowing for a more secure environment, he said.
Other improvements also will occur:
*The existing high school would add restrooms for the first time on a second level, where 10 classrooms are situated.
*Computer access would greatly improve at libraries and a lab in the new high school, which would be heated with the district’s existing sawdust burner.
*Access for those with disabilities also would be corrected at the existing high school.
*Both the middle school and high school would be situated in close proximity, allowing both to share teachers easily.
The district’s April 7 proposals come at time when construction costs have declined as firms scramble to find work and keep crews on their payroll. In the most recent project, an estimated $150 per square foot project dipped to around $100 per square foot. The district’s bonding firm told patrons last week that interest rates also are attractive.
On the ballot are two issues:
*A $5 million bond outlay that would be repaid with the existing levy in place. A four-sevenths majority is required for passage.
*A $2.5 million lease agreement that requires a simple majority for passage. A 43 cent per $100 assessed valuation levy would result. For the owner of an $80,000 home, the increase amounts to about $5.45 a month.
If both are approved, construction would begin in September and is expected to last 10-12 months.