Committee studies Keller school bond priorities

03/24/2014 4:42 PM

03/24/2014 4:44 PM

A career and technical education center, building additions to accommodate enrollment growth and renovations of aging campuses top the list of options for a possible November bond election, according to Keller school district officials.

Administrators and members of the citizens bond advisory committee met March 18 to discuss priorities.

Due to growth in the tax base and paying off previous bonds, Keller schools could raise as much as $140 million without raising taxes. The district is already at the state cap for the rate servicing bond debt.

Keller officials plan to invest more resources in career and technology courses, an area where the district lags behind its neighbors.

Hudson Huff, director of planning and construction, said that he received 13 responses to the district’s request for qualifications from architecture firms interested in designing a possible career and technology center.

Officials planned to review the firms and come up with a list of four or five contenders set to be interviewed March 25 by a committee of about 10 to 12 administrators, teachers and community members. The group would be looking for a firm to recommend to trustees at the March 27 board meeting.

“We want to make sure they have experience in designing these types of facilities,” Huff said.

Superintendent Randy Reid said that career training centers can range in cost from $20 million to $60 million, depending on the programming and whether the building is a full-time high school or a site that pulls students from their home campuses for a portion of the day.

Additions to handle growth

Administrators also talked to bond committee members about handling enrollment growth at the intermediate and middle school levels and at the preschool level.

Huff said that the district may need some building additions on a few fifth- and sixth-grade campuses where demographers expect about 400 more students at build out than optimal capacity in the current schools.

Right now, Parkwood Hill and Trinity Meadows intermediate school are beyond optimal capacity, with more than 1,000 students each.

Space is available at Bear Creek and South Keller intermediate schools. A boundary change would temporarily relieve concerns, but the long-term solution could be to build an addition on the west side of the district, Huff said.

Officials also are tracking the growth in pre-kindergarten and the preschool program for children with disabilities (PPCD).

Those students currently attend the Keller Early Learning Center, but the facility has reached about maximum capacity, said Karin Mahlenkamp, early childhood program director.

About 700 students, half in the morning and half in the afternoon, attend classes there.

School districts are not required to provide the pre-kindergarten program, but if they have it they cannot reject any qualifying student.

Those who are eligible include children from low-income families, kids who have active duty military parents or English as a second language students.

Preschoolers are admitted throughout the school year. Administrators have reserved a few classrooms at Keller-Harvel Elementary School for PPCD students, if overflow space is needed.

The district is required to provide transportation for special education students, so moving a small number would be a workable solution, Reid said.

An addition for preschool students could be part of a bond proposal.

Renovating for school security

Administrators and committee members briefly discussed possible renovations to make school entries more secure.

Parkwood Hill, South Keller and Trinity Meadows intermediate schools all have entryways located away from their offices; the three buildings have similar floor plans.

Most campuses admit visitors into the office before they can access the rest of the building. Administrators would like to relocate the offices for better security.

Keller High School also has offices set away from the front entrance. Officials are considering moving offices into the current band hall area and building an addition to house the band program.

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