HALTOM CITY — Voters in the Birdville school district will decide on Nov. 4 whether they favor an estimated $163.2 million bond package aimed at modernizing three aging schools, updating classroom technology and increasing campus security.At a special meeting Thursday, the school board voted 7-0 to put the bond issue on the general election ballot.“I believe our community is ready to embrace it,” said board President Cary Hancock said. “I believe this is the next step to make us a destination district for the next generation.”Packets detailing what each campus will get in the bond program will be available at each school. The district has also put together a video to give information to the public.Bond committee members presented the plan to school trustees earlier this year. Many of the same improvements were in a bond issue that failed in May 2013. The earlier bond program included the consolidation of elementary schools, which angered parents and helped lead to its defeat.Committee members said this summer that while aging campuses have been retrofitted and patched for technology, three schools need to be rebuilt.The Rev. Scott Maze, pastor of North Richland Hills Baptist Church and member of the bond committee, said young families looking for homes in Northeast Tarrant County are drawn to school districts that invest in keeping campuses modernized.Maze said campus security is also a top concern. “You want to do everything possible to ensure safety,” Maze said.Investing in the district for the future was a theme among board members Thursday.“We need this to pass for our future,” said Trustee Ralph Kunkel. The program includes rebuilding North Richland Middle School, Birdville Elementary and Academy at West Birdville. New construction would add classroom space and eliminate portables at all three campuses.The plans include additions at Smithfield and Watauga middle schools as well as Watauga Elementary. School science labs also would be upgraded to ensure they meet state requirements.A safety vestibule for Birdville High School to help with screening visitors is proposed. Security fencing to better protect portable classrooms and additional security cameras for each campus also are in the package.According to the plan, the tax increase for an average home in the district, valued at about $120,000, would be about $3 a month.Senior citizens claiming a state exemption for those over 65 will not have an increase.Early voting is Oct. 20-31, and Election Day is Nov. 4.Information about the bond program is online: www.bisdbond14.net.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1