Wise County Messenger

Group assesses facilities

DECATUR


A citizens group in Decatur ISD has once again started the work of putting together a possible recommendation for a bond issue to address growth issues in the district.

A facilities committee began meeting last month to review facility and instructional needs and look at possible options which could result in a recommendation for a bond package to the school board in January.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Chad Jones provided board members with an update on the committee, which is made up of members from the original facilities committee formed in the fall of 2020, along with new members from the district’s strategic planning community advisory committee.

“I think we’ve got 30-35 members. I think it is a very diverse, broad group of the community that are represented there,” Jones said.

The first item of business at the first meeting in October was to decide if the results of the work from the previous committee would be carried forward with the new group or start from scratch.

“After a long discussion, every community member in the room voted, and 100 percent said we are going to use what we can from what you’ve done in the past,” Jones said.

The previous committee worked for about nine months but never made a formal recommendation to the school board following issues surrounding the resignation of former athletic director Mike Fuller in June of 2021, followed by the acceptance of a resignation agreement with former superintendent Joseph Coburn the following month.

A survey done during this time period showed residents in the district did not support a bond issue, although respondents did support many of the individual items that were listed as possible items in a bond package, such as replacing of aged buses, technology upgrades for students, maintenance upgrades, improved safety and security measures and improvements to Career and Technology Education programs.

Jones addressed the results of that survey when responding to a question from board member Scott Koehler.

“When they did that initial survey…what it kind of showed was ‘Do we need this?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do we need this?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Would you support a bond?’ ‘There’s no way I’d support a bond right now with the turmoil going on up there with that board and administration and everything that was going on at that time, so (a bond package) got put on the back burner,” Jones said.

Koehler said the school district needs to be transparent with the community as it plans for a possible bond issue next spring.

“Transparency has been an issue for a long time…I would love for everything to be transparent across the board, and I think it builds trust in the community. If we want to pass a bond, we have to build trust in our community,” he said.

The facilities committee met again on Wednesday with principals and department heads, providing information on needs in their areas.

Among the most pressing needs was facility and capacity constraints at the middle school. A study presented to the board in March showed McCarroll Middle School has a capacity of 569 students. As of Monday, the student population was 821.

“During passing periods the hallways are too narrow for students to navigate efficiently. We don’t have enough classrooms for the students and the staff that we have,” Principal Roby Nunn said.

The same capacity study in March showed the high school was also now above capacity. Principal Lyle Lackey spoke with the committee Wednesday about how that affects the needs at the campus.

“We’re just kind of running out of classrooms. If we continue to grow like we did (this year), we’re going to run out of classroom space,” Lackey said.

Other common needs across multiple campuses included HVAC upgrades, safety and security upgrades, roof replacements and other general upgrades such as new carpet or paint.

In upcoming meetings, the facility committee will receive information on demographics, new facility options, cost estimates and the potential effect on the debt service tax rate. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the board in January in order to give the board the option to call a vote for a bond issue by the Feb. 17 deadline for a May election.

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