Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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May 5, 2013

CISD: New campus, upgrades, safety, highlight $54 million bond on May 11 ballot

Corsicana — Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles on the May 11 CISD bond election.

Voters in the Corsicana Independent School District have an important decision to make in the May 11 election.

The district is seeking approval of a $54 million bond package school officials say will provide for some much needed additional classroom space and make improvements to safety and security on each campus. Technology and physical plant improvements are also a part of the bond, affecting every campus in the district.

The plan calls for district-wide safety and security improvements of $3.7 million; improvements to libraries and media centers, $4 million; upgrades to Carroll, Corsicana High School, and flooring improvements on several campuses, $7.4 million; upgrades at the CHS baseball complex, $1.5 million; a new administration building, $1.3 million; and a new 7th-8th grade middle school for $36 million.

A Facility Review and Recommendation Committee comprised of a cross-section of business and community leaders and educators decided on the priorities. CISD trustees called for the bond election during the Feb. 18 meeting.

The proposal would raise CISD taxes by 15.91 cents for each $100 in appraised value. The tax rate would go from the current $1.28 for each $100 in home value to $1.44. Taxes on a home valued at $100,00 would increase about $135.20 per year; a $150,000 home would see an increase of $214.73 per year; and a $200,000 home would see its school taxes go up by $294.26 annually, according to a CISD fact sheet about the bond.

One of the priorities of the study committee was safety and security. Plans call for expenditures of $3.7 million to improve and enhance campus safety, explained Dr. Diane Frost, CISD superintendent.

Each campus would have a secured entry point, allowing campus personnel to control access to the campus. A new keyless entry system would also be put into place, Frost said, helping to further secure exterior doors on each campus.

New video camera technology planned would allow campus personnel to monitor key areas both on-site and remotely.

“If we had a concern about something that was on campus, I could monitor that from my office,” Frost said. The video system would also allow police to review any events that should occur. Frost said the upgrades will include higher-quality video and recordings to help document activities.

The new middle school campus is the biggest part of the bond, proposed to be built adjacent to Tiger Stadium. The decision to build a middle school as opposed to an intermediate campus was the best choice for the district, Frost said.

“We’re building it to hold up to 1,200 students, so what we’re doing is including some additional space so we’re not crowded and have additional space for growth,” Frost said. State-of-the-art technology and lab facilities have also been incorporated into the design, she said. “It will be an exciting place for students to learn.”

Placing grades 7 and 8 near the high school campus offers other benefits as well, Frost said.

“What this does is allow us to share facilities and staff,” she said. Students on the middle school campus could easily go to the high school campus to take one or more classes, making it more efficient for staffing purposes.

The new campus will also eliminate the use of 19 portable buildings currently in use across the district through a re-alignment of classrooms, moving 5th grade classes from elementary campuses to the Collins campus with 6th grade classes, freeing up room on the elementary campuses. Current plans call for the Drane campus, the oldest in the district, to no longer house students. It could possibly be used as an office building for area non-profit organizations, or a place for meetings or assemblies, Frost said.

“We have several ideas that we are in the process of discussing,” she said.

Upgrades to the district’s libraries will include new technology rolled out over several years, including additional books and computer banks for research and instructional presentations.

“It will give students an opportunity to go in before or after school, conduct their research ... it will be there and available for them if they don’t have that at home,” she said. Frost said a 10-year rollout plan will address specific needs at individual campuses, also taking enrollment into consideration at each campus.

Physical improvements at several campuses, including some major renovations at the Carroll Elementary campus and the addition of a new passing hallway at Corsicana High School, are targeted to cost $7.4 million. Carroll would see some classroom renovations, improvement to the food service area, and the library.

“It’s renovations to the older part of the Carroll campus,” Frost explained. The entryway to the campus will also be improved, incorporating the new secure entry. Other improvements include some flooring renovations at Collins, Bowie and Fannin campuses.

The addition of the new passing hall at the high school, which would be constructed on the side of the building facing FM 744, would provide a second hallway for students to use when changing classes. The high school would also get improvements to the auditorium’s stage, lighting system and sound system.

Corsicana High School’s baseball complex will see improved bleachers, new restrooms, concession area and press box improvements, along with a new infield turf for James Price Field. The new turf would help the field recover quicker from rainy weather and prevent the rescheduling of games due to wet fields, Frost said.

Getting all of the district’s administrators under one roof is the goal of the planned construction of a new administration building for the CISD.

“We now have administration in four different buildings,” Frost explained. She said the district would sell the current administration building and the old red brick building adjacent to it that currently houses offices for special services. Proceeds from that sale could be used for other needs in the district not in the proposed bond.

Frost said the committee and the board considered the timing of the bond request, and the impact of a tax increase on business and industry should the bond pass.

“It is something we are concerned about, just as we are concerned about asking people to pay additional taxes,” Frost said. “However, when you think about what the value is of having upgraded and new facilities for your school district, and the appeal that that has for business people and businesses moving into a town, as well as people who are homeowners, it offsets the addition in the taxes that the businesses would incur.”

Frost said the proposal would “enhance” economic development in the city.

“When you bring a business into the community, and you’re able to take them by your schools, show them a new campus, that makes a statement about your community, and what your community values.”

Frost is optimistic the district’s voters will approve the bond measure on May 11.

"We believe that our community will support our students and schools, and that the bond will pass,” she said. “Should it not, however, we will continue to utilize the buildings as they are with updates as the budget allows.

“We will continue to be the best stewards of the funds that are available. Limitations will apply, however, in areas such as safety and security and technology upgrades."

Early voting for the school and city elections ends on Tuesday. Election day is Saturday, May 11.

   —————

Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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