The Peaster football program turned in a fine inaugural season, but one thing the program has yet to win is a victory for a new stadium.
For the second time since May, a bond package that included a new stadium for the Greyhounds was voted down by the community. Now, folks connected with the program are left to figure out what the future holds.
But one thing is certain, coach Matt Chapman said, is the Greyhounds will continue to play.
"Some things will have to be done before next season, but we will proceed with football next year," he said.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Originally, voters rejected a $9.5 million bond proposal in May that was just for football faclities. This time the bond package was valued at $13.5 million and included improvements for all three campuses (elementary, middle, high school), such as lighting, mechanical, electrical, and security upgrades. It also included funding for a computerized numeric control lab at the agricultural sciences building,, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for the new CNC lab and current shop area, and additional buses and technology upgrades for grades K-12.
"The needs of school district are still there. They are not going away, just pushed down the road for now," said Becky McCullough, who led the effort to get the bond passed.
"We are disappointed but I am not in a state of shock. We were very pleased with the voter turnout for this election, even though it didn't go the Vote Yes way. Peaster is a small conservation community and the majority of voters obviously did not like the bond package."
Technically, progress was made. In the May election, the bond lost by 70 votes in a turnout that saw 245 against and 175 for, a percentage of 58-42. This time the turnout was much bigger, and the bond lost by 75 votes, 438-363, a percentage of 55-45.
A report from the Texas Comptroller's office shows that the Peaster ISD has tax-supported outstanding debt of around $26.5 million. With an enrollment (as of Aug. 31, 2016) of 1,060, Peaster ranked second among 10 school districts similar in size, behind only Winona (1,056 students) with just over $43 million.
As for whether the bond will be presented again, she said, "It is up to the board of trustees to decide to put another bond out there and their decision as to what changes need to made if they change anything."
But she, like Chapman, said football will continue.
"Peaster will keep playing football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball and every single thing they currently do. This bond was never about funding the football program," she said. "Teachers will still teach. Students will continue to learn. The bond was about building facilities that would bring added opportunity to students. It was about adding security, technology and buses."
Superintendent Matt Adams said the original plan for the football program remains in place. This year they fielded seventh- and eighth-grade teams. Next season they will add a junior varsity squad, and field a varsity team in the 2020-21 school year.
"We will continue to grow the program and provide an opportunity for those kids," he said. "Preliminary numbers show 70 to 80 kids in the program next year."
This season the team played on a practice field that also doubled as a track practice area. Bleachers were brought in, and even more will be brought for next season, Adams said.
However, Adams added that more room will be needed for practice when teams and players are added. Where that is will be decided at a later date.
"We will have to look at a practice field location for when we add junior varsity and varsity," he said. "
"We will continue to move forward and provide opportunities for our students. We are excited about the growth we are seeing not only in football, but also in our band and cheerleading programs."
McCullough offered some advice for citizens in future elections.
"I encourage every voter to be more engaged with the school board, go to the monthly meetings. They are posted on the school web site and are open to the public," she said. "I think if more people saw what research goes into putting bond packages together and what can and can not be included in a bond it would be helpful."