By Kathi Bliss
Unexpected issues cropped up at Lockhart High School last week as classes began under the cover of clouds and rain.
“It was disgraceful,” said Trustee Steve Johnson on Monday evening during the regular meeting of the Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees. He was referring to the first volleyball game of the season, which was difficult to access for students and visitors because of the ongoing construction at the high school. “We had people parking all in the bus lane, and if there had been an emergency it would have been a disaster. We had people tromping through the mud and the rain, and I was just embarrassed.”
Superintendent Susan K. Bohn noted the problems were generally operational; the District did not have sufficient plans in place for parking, handicapped access, or “torrential rains.”
“We [weren’t prepared for that],” she reported to the Board. “We weren’t prepared for the staffing issues, we weren’t prepared for the rains, and we can do better.”
Bohn assured the Board that she had been working throughout the week with LHS Principal Deanna Juarez and Executive Director of Athletics and UIL Activities Sheila Henderson to solve the problems in advance of this week’s home football opener.
“It’s going to be clunky,” she said. “With the construction going on, parking is going to be a problem.”
Bohn raised the issue in order to warn the community, and particularly the neighborhood surrounding the schools, that traffic and street-parking issues will come to light throughout the fall as crowds grow at home football and volleyball games.
“We are looking at the games that we know are going to be big games, like Homecoming, to see about shuttling,” she said. However, she noted in her experience people choose not to use shuttle services until they can clearly see the value of doing so.
Additionally, with the changing of Home and Visitors’ side stands, people may be confused about where to go and what to do.
On that tack, parking for the volleyball game will be available on Lion Country Drive, with limited handicapped accessible parking inside the stadium grounds at the Field House. Football parking will also be on Lion Country Drive in the gravel lot, as well as in the parking lots on the Center Street side of the campus. A walkway has been provided from Medina to the new Home Side box office. See a full map of the campus complex on Page 1B of today’s Post-Register.
Project Manager Jo Zunker told the Board that other issues arose at Lockhart High in light of the construction, particularly with issues of drainage and student movement.
“We weren’t really prepared for the rains, and we weren’t sure about the runoff from the construction site,” Zunker said. “We are going to be working with the City and with the contractors and engineers, to see what we need to do about the runoff.”
Zunker said it is possible that the construction site itself could be creating something of a dam preventing water flow off the campus; she also noted there were well-known drainage issues on the City of Lockhart streets surrounding the campus.
“Do you think we might want to get an outside engineer to come in and help us figure out what happened,” queried Trustee Tom Guyton. “Sometimes in situations like this, people are going to look at it and say ‘that’s not our fault’ so they don’t have to pay to fix it.”
Because the project has been funded through a massive bond package, Guyton said the District needs to make sure that whichever organization caused the drainage problems would be responsible for paying to fix them.
In her update to the public about the first week of school, Bohn noted that there were wrinkles in student transportation that were caused in large part by the opening of the Alma B. Strawn Elementary Campus, as well as the separation of bus routes between elementary and secondary campuses.
“The state of the campuses the week before school started versus the day of was quite impressive,” Bohn said. Nearly every campus in the District saw some level of construction over the summer; most however, were ready for students to return to school last Monday.
She also noted there were several transportation issues, largely circling around the new system of two-tiered bus routes and communication with parents.
“That tiered routing system is new for us and new for the STS staff, so I think that was difficult,” Bohn said. “We worked at the end of last week and through the weekend [to solve those problems].”
Additionally, she said, there were several no-shows for bus drivers and other staffing issues which caused delays in student transportation. However, she said the report on Monday indicated that students were being picked up more quickly, and the situation was expected to get better by the day.
“Things were too late last week,” she said. “And we had frustrated parents and I totally understand that. We’re working to make it better.”
Still, she said, her campus visits throughout the first week of school indicated that students are happy and teachers are happy and “everyone is getting into the groove.”
In brief news:
The Trustees approved a temporary stipend of $2,000 per month for LJHS Principal Mark Estrada, who will be performing additional duties this year as the Interim Principal of the ML Cisneros Freshman Campus.
They authorized Bohn to contract with an attorney to represent the District in connection with an Employee Grievance.
The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees routinely meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Library at Lockhart Junior High School. The meetings are open to the public and are available online at www.lockhartisd.org.