Birdville trustees study bond proposal

Posted Monday, Feb. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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In September, Birdville school trustees and administrators formed a diverse citizens' bond committee of more than 50 parents and community leaders to study current and future facility needs. With 12 of our campuses being built prior to 1960 and another five between 1960 and 1969, the committee faced challenges in determining the best direction for the district.

Student and staff safety, student achievement, efficiency of current facilities and equity across the district were of major importance, yet there was a need to maintain a reasonable tax rate and find ways to save money districtwide.

The committee presented its recommendation to the board Dec. 13. The board has until Friday to decide whether to call a May 11 bond election.

The committee proposed:

Security -- Adding cameras and buzzer systems for all campuses, and where possible, safety vestibules.

Science labs -- Providing new or upgraded labs throughout the district.

Technology -- Focusing on computers and mobile devices, Internet connectivity for wireless devices and access to classroom technology for all students.

Buildings -- Consolidating and rebuilding Francisco and Smith elementary schools and Birdville and Richland elementary schools to save approximately $15 million over the next 10 years. Replacing North Richland Middle, Smithfield Elementary and the Academy at West Birdville, which are 50-65 years old and have major structural issues, with modern facilities that are less costly to operate and maintain.

Repairs, renovations -- Replacing more than 50 portable classrooms with permanent classrooms; replacing aging roofs, HVAC systems and plumbing; improving energy management systems throughout the district; adding a horticulture and animal science facility at the Birdville Center of Technology and Advanced Learning to serve three high schools.

In spring 2010, a citizens' bond study committee evaluated district facility needs, and consolidation quickly became a discussion point.

The 2012 committee determined that consolidation had to be considered again and identified four elementary campuses as the best candidates. Birdville and Richland elementary schools and Francisco and Smith elementary schools were chosen based on proximity to each other, projected low enrollment and rebuilding versus renovation costs.

For many years, the district has worked with a highly respected demographic firm to help determine trends in our community. Using local, state and national data to develop projections, this firm presented its enrollment forecast for each of our campuses.

The forecast shows that some of our smallest campuses will continue to see minimal growth or enrollment declines over the next 10 years. A good example is Richland Elementary, where the demographer says it is "more likely that enrollment will continue to fall toward 275 students per year ... and to near 230 students by the end of the decade." The average elementary campus in the district is 613 students.

The committee proposal would retire four of the most inefficient buildings and replace them with energy-efficient buildings that are more cost-effective to maintain. These will not be mega-campuses. They will be similar in size to those on the north end of the district, and class sizes will remain the same.

No teachers or administrators will lose their employment because of the proposal. Students will have the opportunity to attend new schools that are designed to meet current and future educational and safety needs.

With the consolidation of Birdville and Richland elementary schools, every elementary student in Richland Hills will attend either the brand new school or Binion Elementary, which is less than 10 years old.

Students who live in Richland Hills and are currently zoned for Richland Elementary will be offered bus service to the new school. No elementary student who currently lives in the Richland Elementary attendance zone will have to walk across Texas 10, Belknap Street or Big Fossil Creek.

The district has created a website with information that was provided to members of the citizens' committee (www.birdvilleschools.net/cbc2012). If the board decides to call an election for May 11, the district will provide a bond information site at www.birdvilleschools.net/2013bond.

Darrell G. Brown is superintendent of the Birdville school district.

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