In Focus

HISD bond would rebuild schools

Friday, June 22, 2012

HISD is unveiling plans that would change the look of high school for almost every Houston student. And if approved, it will change residents' bottom line for decades to come.

The plan calls for $1.9 billion, and no matter what you spend that kind of money on, it is a lot of cash. The school board is proposing spending that money to renovate dozens of schools. It's mostly targeting high schools, with $1.3 billion of the money spent to rebuilt 14 high schools.

If voters agree to increase their own taxes for decades to come, a number of high schools will soon be history. Lee, Yates, Sharpstown, the High School for Performing and Visual Arts and four others are all set to be torn down and rebuilt. It's part of a nearly $2 billion bond program Houston home and business owners will soon be asked to pay for.

HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier said, "This is a good investment. This is good for Houston. When you start replacing this number of high schools, it can change an entire city."

HISD says its aging buildings are too old for school. A consultant hired by the board says Houston high schools are eight years older than the national average, and the rest of the schools are right at it.

Susan Zoeller, a consultant who works for MGT of America, Inc. said, "You have aging buildings. 1925 I think is the oldest one? Tthings have changed since 1925."

At the same time, the consultant admits this is a huge proposal -- maybe a little too big.

"Few school districts in the country would take this on," Zoeller said.

"I'm pretty concerned by the size of this," said former tax assessor collector Paul Bettencourt. "I question in an economy that's soft, even certainly nationally, why we're going for such a huge amount of money all at one time."

Already there is some opposition, not necessarily to the need, but for the size of the program. The $1.9 billion is twice what the district asked for just five years ago. For an average $200,000 home in HISD, that's $91 in extra school taxes every year for decades.

"If you have a brand new school, the value of your home goes up," Dr. Grier said.

Your choice -- $100 for 30 years for a new school in your neighborhood. Voters will likely be asked in November. A poll commissioned by an outside group for the school district said about 48 percent of Houstonians already support it.

View a map of the school campuses HISD proposes to have completely rebuilt, partially replaced, renovated, converted and expanded.

The proposal calls for $1.67 billion to be spent on improvements at 42 schools. According to HISD, this would cover:

  • $577 million to completely replace 8 high schools: Furr, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Lee, Madison, Sharpstown, Sterling, Booker T. Washington and Yates
  • $354 million to replace the inadequate facilities at 4 high schools: Bellaire, Lamar, Sam Houston and Westbury
  • $259 million to replace inadequate facilities and renovate 5 high schools: Austin, Eastwood Academy, Milby, Waltrip and Worthing
  • $27 million to build 2 new early college high schools: North Early College and South Early College
  • $61 million to renovate or renew 9 high schools: Davis, DeBakey, Jones, Barbara Jordan, Kashmere, Scarborough, Sharpstown International, Young Men's College Prep and Young Women's College Prep
  • $121 million to convert 4 elementary schools into K-8 campuses: Garden Oaks, Pilgrim Academy, Wharton Dual Language and Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School at Gordon
  • $74 million to replace Dowling Middle School and expand Grady Middle School
  • $126 million to replace 5 elementary schools: Askew, Condit, Kelso, MacGregor and Parker
  • $67 million to renovate and make building additions at K. Smith Elementary, replace inadequate facilities and renovate Tijerina Elementary, and build a new elementary school on the district's west end to reduce overcrowding
  • The proposed $225 million in district wide projects would cover: Technology upgrades at all HISD schools ($100 million), District athletic facility improvements ($42.7 million), Middle school restroom renovations ($35 million), Safety and security improvements ($27 million) and Land acquisition ($20 million)

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