KISD officials look to upgrade older facilities in next bond

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Keller school district officials are beginning to eye a possible bond package as early as 2014 to address aging buildings along with growth.

The district’s last bond, a $142 million issue approved in November 2008, covered the construction of Timberview Middle School, Ridgeview Elementary and the Keller Early Learning Center, among other projects.

At next month’s board meeting, administrators will present the findings of a comprehensive building and infrastructure assessment conducted by SHW Group of Plano at a cost of about $247,000 from 2008 bond savings.

The review looked at conditions of schools and properties, handicapped accessibility, equity in technology and security needs. In addition, the review will include cost estimates to correct problems and inequities.

“I’ll just warn you it’s going to be a massive number,” Superintendent Randy Reid told parents at the Sept. 26 Brown Bag Lunch at Willis Lane Elementary School. “We’re not going to be able to address it all in one bond.”

Reid said that officials would prioritize needs and work them into the district’s ten-year capital improvement plan.

Keller schools are already at the 50 cent cap in the tax rate for bond debt, but the district could raise about $100 million without raising the rate due to refinancing and paying off older debts.

A bond likely would include at least one new school. Keller ISD owns an elementary site in a neighborhood west of Interstate 35W near Basswood Boulevard.

Officials also are considering a career and technical education center to provide more options for high school students, a high priority made more urgent by new state mandates for multiple paths to graduation.

While Keller is still growing—the district added about 400 students this fall—the increase is slowing down as vacant land becomes more scarce. The district has not opened a new school in the last two years. Between 2000 and 2011, 22 campuses were built. During the peak growing year in 2006, Keller added more than 2,000 new students.

Hudson Huff, director of planning and construction, said the district is entering a different phase as growth slows. Officials are now looking at older buildings and infrastructure rather than just scrambling to keep up with rising enrollment. A lot of the focus in the SHW assessment has been on buildings that are ten or more years old.

Huff said, “Evaluations of older facilities don’t bring the same type of attention as new buildings, but it’s very important for the district to address needs there for students and teachers.”

At a July board meeting, Terry Hoyle with SHW told trustees that his team had identified quite a bit of work to be done at Keller High School, which opened in 1985.

The district has only a handful of campuses older than Keller High. Keller Middle School was built in stages during the 1960s and was originally Keller High. Bear Creek Intermediate, originally a middle school, is the district’s oldest intermediate school, opening in 1973, while Florence and Parkview elementary schools opened in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Whitley Road Elementary opened in 1984.

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