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Elementary school construction nears completion, planning begins

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

As construction nears completion on the new Bluebonnet Elementary, the Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees find themselves scrambling to prepare for the changes that the school”s opening will cause.

Much of the LISD board meeting on Monday evening was dominated by talk of Bluebonnet Elementary. Whe

n the school opens for the 2005-2006 school year, placement of students in elementary schools could change. Further, construction continues on the building, nearly undeterred by the recent rains.

Assistant Superintendent Phil McBride presented a plan to the board, suggesting combining all classes from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and dividing LISD students between what would become five elementary schools. Under the plan, Carver Kindergarten would be converted to an elementary school for students up to the fifth grade.

Board members disagreed with the potential plan. Among their concerns were the social ramifications for the students that might be enrolled at Carver Elementary, a school which has traditionally been a Kindergarten campus.

Trustee Dennis Placke suggested that the Bluebonnet campus should be a pilot location for the “Pre-K through Fifth Grade” proposal, as the campus was built and designed with that elementary structure in mind.

Trustee Raymond Gonzales suggested that the board should schedule a workshop to discuss all of the potential solutions to elementary restructuring and revisit the issue at a later time.

At the request of Superintendent John Hall, the board considered a budget amendment to hire a prinicpal, assistant principal, librarian, counselor, LVN and two secretaries for the new campus.

Some of the required salaries had been factored into the budget, but according to Hall, asking the staff to start in August, as they were originally budgeted to do, would not give them the time to “do the job right.”

Finance director Tina Knudsen indicated that she was able to evaluate the budget and reassign funds, including some originally-unforeseen income, to allow for the $63,500 needed to hire the new staff.

The new principal is scheduled to start work in February. The rest of the staff will begin July.

Bluebonnet Elementary architect George Austria delivered a monthly report to the board with regard to the construction of the campus.

The recent rains, Austria said, have slowed construction on the exterior of the building. However, earlier in the project, contractors fell slightly behind on interior construction, and the rain has given them the opportunity to catch up.

Austria suggested that the board make a change to the original plans for the school. The update calls for the installation of wooden railings over the floor-length windows in the building. He suggested that the railings would provide added stability for the windows, as well as added safety to the students.

He reported that construction is estimated to stay within the budget of nearly $7.1 million.

The board recognized the accomplishments of the fall sports programs.

Special recognition was given to coach Scott Hippensteel and the Lions varsity cross country team, who placed first in both district and regional races, and second in the state.

Coach and boys” athletic director Bryce Monsen was recognized for leading the Lions to the playoffs for only the second time in 30 years.

Several concerns have been raised in the past about the school”s transportation system.

A representative from the transportation contractor presented a report in which she explained that the district has 25 rural and six special-education routes. Because of the length of the routes, some children have to get on the bus before 6 a.m. and are on the bus for up to two hours before being delivered at school.

Hall discussed the possibility of air conditioning the busses. Ultimately, the board determined that the bus contract should be re-bid when it comes up for renewal.

The board authorized the refinance of the 1992 bonds.

The bonds, which total nearly $1.8 million, will mature next August. Under the suggestion of financial officer Tina Knudsen and the district”s financial advisor, the board opted to refinance the bonds, at a savings to the district of nearly $86,000.

The district will soon purchase several Ford Excursions to be used for extracurricular activities and student transportation.

When McBride originally advertised for a bid on the vehicles, none of the local dealerships responded. Last month, the board asked him to readvertise, in an effort to give local businesses the opportunity to earn the sale.

Lockhart Ford Motor Company, although they did not present the lowest bid, presented a bid low enough to make it worthwhile for the district to keep the business in Lockhart.

Trustee Andy Govea was adamantly against the purchase, suggesting that the funds should be used for another purpose.

“It”s about the money,” Govea said. “I have been against this from the word go, and I”m still against it. I”d rather use that money to hire more teachers than to buy SUVs.” In the end, the rest of the board did not agree with Govea, as the purchase passed 6-1.

In brief board news:

Hall asked the board, with the support of the secondary school principals, to consider hiring a truancy officer, in an effort to help with the problem of habitual truancy. The request came at the suggest on Justice of the Peace M. Louis Cisneros, whose court prosecutes the greater portion of truancy cases.

The board agreed to combine polling places with the City of Lockhart for the May 7, 2005 election.

A new parking lot will be built at Navarro Elementary. The new lot, off of Medina Street, will allow for 18 new parking spaces at the campus.

The auto tech aide at Lockhart High School will receive an $800 stipend.

The board approved the employment of more than 30 new staff members and substitute teachers.

The interest rate is increasing on LISD”s cash investments.

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