Education

These school districts are pitching bond programs

Fort Worth 2019 State of the City address

Mayor Betsy Price is very optimistic during her state of the city address at Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.
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Mayor Betsy Price is very optimistic during her state of the city address at Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.

Replacing old schools and adding classrooms are some of the projects proposed by four Tarrant County area districts that have called Nov. 5 bond elections.

Projects are on the ballot in the Aledo, Arlington, Everman and Keller school districts.

The Aledo school board approved this week a $149.9 million bond package that would pay for two new campuses, renovations at three campuses, replacement furniture for three elementary schools, and land for future schools.

“Aledo ISD is experiencing major growth at elementary and middle school levels,” said Jim Scott, co-chair of Aledo’s Bearcat Growth Committee in a statement. “This is not a matter of ‘build it and they will come.’ They’ve come and we need to build it.”

Growing enrollments, aging buildings and academic trends are shaping projects school leaders say are needed to educate students in upcoming years.

“Rising enrollment is always great for a school district and we’re excited to be able to attract home builders and new families to Everman ISD,” said Curtis Amos, superintendent of Everman schools, in a press release. “We have reached a point where we must expand district facilities to meet the growth.”

Everman school leaders are asking for voters to approve a $40 million bond program.

The largest bond program will be decided by voters in the Arlington school district, which is seeking an estimated $966 million bond, the largest in the city’s history. It is also larger than a $749.7 million in bonds approved by voters in Fort Worth schools in 2017.

Arlington’s proposal

The Arlington bond program would replace four schools, increase security on campuses, purchase new school buses and build softball fields and a new football field.

District Chief Financial Officer Cindy Powell has said that taxpayers should not expect any tax rate hike if the bond is approved.

The district plans to rebuild Carter Junior High, Berry Elementary, Thronton Elementary and Webb Elementary. Knox Elementary and Roark Elementary will be closed if the bond passes.

The bond also has money for new playgrounds and accommodations for state-mandated pre-kindergarten classes.

Investment in Keller schools

Keller school leaders are asking for $315 million to pay for 11 capital projects, including replacement of four of the district’s oldest schools: Florence, Heritage, Parkview and Whitley Road elementary schools.

Other projects include safety and security upgrades, technology enhancements, renovations and additions to Fossil Hill and Keller middle schools, indoor extra-curricular facilities at the district’s four high schools and construction of an industrial and agriscience center.

District leaders said the projects can be funded without raising the district’s property tax rate. A citizens bond advisory committee proposed the projects at a school board meeting in July.

A long-range facility planning committee also worked on the effort.

“We are very grateful for all of the work of the hundreds of people involved in the Long-Range Facility Planning and Citizens Bond Advisory Committee processes,” said Cindy Lotton, president of the Keller school board in a press release. “Their recommendation set the district on the path of addressing our long-range facility needs and also allows the board to stay committed to not raising property tax rates.”

Aledo’s school capacity

Student enrollment growth and space capacity are issues facing Aledo schools.

District demographic data indicates that Aledo Middle School will exceed its student capacity next school year. The district’s elementary school capacity is projected to be exceeded.

“In two years, the projected elementary enrollment will exceed maximum capacity at our five elementary schools,” Scott said. “In one year, the projected enrollment will exceed maximum capacity. The middle school is already beyond functional capacity.”

The Bearcat Growth Committee made the bond recommendation to the board. The bond program does not include an increase in the tax rate.

Under the program, $62.5 million will be used to build a new middle school while $33.4 million will be used to expand and renovate Aledo Middle School. This project calls for using a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school configuration, according to the district.

The new middle school would be on district-owned land on Old Weatherford Road. The new elementary school will be in Annetta. The district owns property on Farm-to-Market Road 5.

An estimated $9.6 million would convert McAnally Intermediate into an elementary school. Vandagriff Elementary will be turned into an early childhood campus. That project is estimated to cost about $1.7 million.

Everman’s plan to address growth

Everman schools are also pitching a plan that would add on to existing campuses and re-purpose existing space.

Everman’s enrollment increased from 5,542 in 2015 to 6,174 in 2018. Projections indicate there will be 7,600 students enrolled in Everman schools by 2028.

“We are growing, which is a good thing,” said Everman spokeswoman Nikita Russell.

Some of Everman’s changes will help make space for new students. The district is relocating the fifth grade to the elementary schools. Dan Powell Intermediate, which served fifth-grade students, will be used for an early childhood center.

Everman’s plan also structures Baxter and Johnson into two campuses serving students in grades six through eight. Johnson will be a traditional middle school while Baxter will house a STEAM Academy. The latter offers specialized classes focused on STEM and the arts, Russell said

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James Hartley is the Arlington city government reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is passionate about local politics, true stories, movies and baseball. He has worked for the Tyler Morning Telegraph, D Magazine and the Dallas Observer. You can connect with James on Twitter @ByJamesHartley or Instagram @JamesTakesPhotos. Want reporters like James to help you stay informed about your community? You can help the Star-Telegram continue to offer great local, political, sports and culture news by purchasing a digital or print subscription today.
Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.
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