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Proposed bond package prepares for growth

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state, Northwest ISD expects its 17,700 enrollment to nearly double in the next 10 years.

In August, the school board called a $255 million capital bond election, largely to address growth projections that another 5,800 students will be enrolled by the 2017-2018 school year.

By that year, demographic forecasters and district officials anticipate three middle schools being 1,000 over enrollment, Northwest High School 3,000 and Byron Nelson High School 2,600.

Eighty-nine percent of the projects outlined in the bond package address student growth – $212 million for 4,000 new student seats with a new middle and high school and expansion at an elementary school; career academies and pathways; and classrooms for science, math and environmental studies.

Here is a breakdown of the package, developed by the district’s long-range planning committee, a 37-member community task force.

HIGH SCHOOL NO. 3 – $136 MILLION

The largest portion of the bond would go toward the construction of the district’s third high school, near Schluter Elementary on the Highway 287 and Blue Mound Road area in far north Fort Worth. District officials believe this is where the district will see the most growth in upcoming years.

The school is expected to open in 2015 and would alleviate the crowding primarily at Northwest High School.

“Our high school needs drive the need for this bond issue,” said Dennis McCreary, assistant superintendent for facilities, planning and construction. “This is where the urgency is.”

Although the development of a high school takes more than four years, district officials have shaved a year off of that timeline by using money leftover from the 2008 bond election to begin designing the facility, complete a significant portion of the roadway to access it and begin coordinating easement and planning through the city of Fort Worth.

“It is well underway,” McCreary said.

MIDDLE SCHOOL NO. 6 – $66 MILLION

Pending voter approval, the bond would also provide for a sixth middle school to be constructed near Schluter Elementary and high school No. 3. Its opening in 2016 would relieve the swell of growth at Chisholm Trail and Tidwell middle schools.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL EXPANSION – $10 MILLION

In light of budget cuts from the state, the long-range planning committee in October 2011 recommended increasing the elementary school optimal capacity from 650 to 850 by adding classrooms, a music room, an art room and gym and cafeteria space.

This would accommodate consistent growth but eliminate the need to construct new schools, saving the district money in start-up costs as well.

Last year, additions were made to Granger, Roanoke and Love elementary schools. $10 million in this bond package would be used to expand Nance Elementary school by 2016.

PROGRAM ENHANCEMENTS – $8 MILLION

Other funds would be used for program enhancements in math, science and environmental studies classrooms in the Outdoor Learning Center. The center is a 195-tract of property, formerly known as Texas Lil’s Dude Ranch, just outside of Justin used to create a hands-on learning experience for students.

In the venue, students have the opportunity to study water sources, erosion, wildlife, soil and grasses in a natural setting. There is an emptied pool-turned-archaelogical dig, flowers and shrubs planted by students and a pond-study station.

TECHNOLOGY/SAFETY UPDATES – $25 MILLION

A quarter of a million dollars of the bond will fund technology and safety/security updates across the district.

“Our current (security camera) system was installed in 2001,” Superintendent Karen Rue said. “It’s amazing how outdated technology becomes in 10 years.”

The district’s technology replacement cycle, which ensures that computing systems are capable of operating current instructional programs and software, will continue with funds from this bond. The plan includes updates to telecommunications, network and storage systems. Funds will also be used for curriculum-driven initiatives,, and additional software and hardware for campuses to address instructional needs.

To fund other technology, bond sales can be structured to allow early principal payments that match the useful life of the equipment purchased.

MAJOR REPAIRS – $10 MILLION

Another $10 million would fund major building component replacements in facilities across the district including:

  • roof replacement at Hatfield, Beck, Lakeview and Seven Hills elementary schools and the administration building;
  • floor and HVAC replacement at Pike Middle School;
  • HVAC controls and floor replacement at Northwest High School;
  • HVAC and roof replacement at Steele Accelerated High School;
  • HVAC, roof and floor replacement at Chisholm Trail and Medlin middle schools and
  • floor replacement at Hughes and Nance elementary schools.

“If the bond is approved in November, that doesn’t mean the updates will happen immediately,” NISD Director of Communications Lesley Weaver said. “We will hold off until the roof is needed, if it isn’t needed immediately. But just because it isn’t needed right now doesn’t mean it won’t be needed in the next year or two.”

McCreary added: “We based the needs for these projects on the equipment’s life-cycle.”

TAX IMPLICATIONS

If the proposal passes, taxpayers could see an interest-and-sinking rate increase that will not exceed 7.75 cents (from 33.5 cents to 41.25 cents per $100 valuation). The size of the increase could be less, depending on growth in local property values. The maintenance-and-operations rate would not change.

If the full increase is necessary, the impact for a home valued at $100,000 would be $77.50 annually or $6.46 monthly; a $200,000 home $155 annually and $12.92 per month.

Citizens 65 and older can apply to have their tax rate frozen through the county tax assessor.

Early voting is Oct. 22 to Nov. 2, and Election Day is Nov. 6.

For polling locations and times and other bond election information, visit www.nisdtx.org/2012bond.

“We have a growth surge coming through,” Rue said. “The projects in this bond package will help us accommodate the students that brings.”

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