By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
It’s about planning for the future, and meeting the needs of today’s school children.
The Corsicana Independent School District Board of Trustees is expected to consider calling for a bond election at its Feb. 18 board meeting that would provide a new campus, safety and security upgrades, and some much-needed improvements on nearly every campus in the district. The 19 portable buildings in use across the district would be eliminated.
Two proposals are being considered by trustees, who reviewed the preliminary proposals at their Feb. 4 board meeting, ranging in cost from $46 million to $52 million — the difference between the two being the addition of 16 classrooms at the Corsicana High School campus in the $52 million proposal.
Superintendent Dr. Diane Frost presented the facilities review and recommendations, determined by a committee of district personnel and community members. A special emphasis on security and safety was a part of the planning, Frost said, with nearly $3.7 million in security-related expenditures included in the proposals.
The security upgrades include secure vestibule entries for all campuses, keyless entry systems, security cameras and improved exterior lighting. Frost said the proposed entryway changes would allow campus personnel to control who has access to classroom areas of each campus by having to go through a secure lobby area.
“It allows us to keep up with who is on the campus,” Frost said.
A new campus estimated to cost $28 million is the largest part of the package. The proposed new campus would serve in either a 5th-6th or 7th-8th grade configuration. Plans are still being considered as to which proposal will be in the Feb. 18 proposal to the board, Frost said Friday. The new campus would be built on land adjacent to Tiger Stadium, she said.
“The new building is needed for several different reasons, the first of which is to alleviate the crowding of our elementary campuses,” Frost said. The new campus would help eliminate the need to maintain or replace the portable buildings now in use. They would be eliminated in the proposal.
Frost said the new building would also allow for “state of the art” technology for both educators and students.
Outdated design and construction at the Carroll Elementary campus would see a big boost from the bond package, with $4 million in improvements slated for the campus, including a larger cafeteria area.
“The renovations mainly have to do with the older wing of the campus,” Frost said. “It’s structurally sound, but there are many parts of the building that need to be modernized.”
The front entryway would also see a new look, she said, along with flooring, storage, and drainage work.
Technology upgrades totaling $3.1 million would provide a major upgrade to the district’s computer network, including a server upgrade, wireless service for all campuses, and connectivity from all campuses to the new central computer hub being built at the Lee campus.
The district’s administrators, currently spread across three offices, would make a move — to the Drane Intermediate School building. Frost said the building would need extensive repairs to continue to be used for students, but would easily house all of the district’s administration personnel in one location. The existing administration buildings would be sold, she said.
“When we looked at the campuses, it was the campus that would require the most money for renovations,” she said.
Transportation issues would be addressed in the bond with the purchase of 10 new busses, at a cost of $1 million, and another $1.9 million would be spent on library resources, including technology upgrades in each library.
Also included in the bond proposal is $189,000 for replacing flooring at Bowie, Fannin and Collins school campuses; $313,000 for new band uniforms and instruments; and a much-needed upgrade to the high school’s baseball complex, estimated at $2.5 million, which would include a new artificial turf, spectator stands, press box, concession stands and restrooms. Frost said the improvements would make it possible to host playoff games at the facility.
The high school improvement planned in Option 2 of the bond proposal would add 16 classrooms at Corsicana High School, utilizing land between the present classroom wings and FM 744.
Frost said the present high school configuration is expected to reach capacity in 2019. The additional classrooms — at a projected cost of $5.2 million — would address that concern, as well as provide more hallway room inside the facility to alleviate congestion and crowded hallways teachers and staff deal with now, she said.
Frost said the district’s financial position allows for the added debt if the bond proposal is approved by voters.
“In consulting with our financial group, they have assured us that it is within the district’s financial abilities to take on additional debt,” Frost said. With the recent re-financing of the district’s 2004 bond debt, the district is saving $5.7 million on the cost of that issue, with those savings having a positive impact on the new bond proposal. A second re-financing of a bond in January brought an additional $2 million in savings.
The added cost to taxpayers for the increase from the present debt rate of 24.3 cents per $100 valuation would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $9.12 a month ($109.43 annually) for Option 1, or $11.27 per month ($135.20 annually) for the proposal including the high school additions.
CISD Board President Kerri Donica is grateful for the work that went into the study.
“The Facility Review and Recommendation Committee did an outstanding job of evaluating our district facilities, and researching the needs of our campuses,” Donica said. “Safety and technology are big factors in their recommendation, as is planning for student enrollment growth.”
Jason Sodd, one of the members of the committee, said security was of primary importance to the members.
“It’s on everybody’s minds after what happened in Connecticut,” he said. “We were talking about making some upgrades to our facilities and that is a major one that is necessary.”
Sodd said he believed the time was right for the new bond.
“I think this is good timing. Money is very cheap to borrow right now,” he said. “If you’re going to do something like this now is the time before interest rates start to go back up.
“I think this is a real good move for the district.”
“The CISD needs to provide schools that are safe for students to learn and teachers to teach,” Donica added. “I know the Board will examine them closely.”
If approved by trustees, the proposal is expected to be on the May 11 ballot.
Bob Belcher may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com