By Kathi Bliss
An informational packet being distributed by the Lockhart Independent School District this week spells out the plans for the funds the district could potentially receive if a $63.9 million bond package meets with voter approval next month.
Early voting opens April 28 for the special-called election, which will allow local voters to decide if LISD will be allowed to borrow millions of dollars to pay for upgrades to eight of the District’s nine campuses, including a sweeping renovation of Lockhart High School, which was constructed in 1965 and has not seen major renovations in nearly a decade.
Online opposition to the proposal is beginning to swell, with detractors calling the proposal “gold plated,” and expressing concern that the bond proposal will “max out the District’s credit” for the next 20 years or more. The bulk of those funds, more than $42 million, are expected to be funneled into the LHS renovation.
The renovation project includes demolition of older classroom wings and replacement with single and two-story classroom wings that will increase the campus capacity to almost 2,200 students. This will allow for the ninth grade campus to merge with the Lockhart High School. The project also includes a new Career and Technology Education wing and a new Performing Arts Center (PAC), which includes a band hall. Technology upgrades and comprehensive renovation of remaining spaces are also proposed.
A nearly yearlong review of the District’s facilities revealed that more than 30 percent of the classrooms at LHS do not meet the State of Texas’ standards for square footage, and the science labs are also insufficient, LISD officials said.
A sticking point for some opponents, however, is the $4.1 million earmarked for improvements to Lion Stadium. Those improvements, including renovation and reconstruction of the press box to make it ADA compliant, construction of new restrooms and upgrades in the concession stands. Opponents are concerned the renovations at the stadium are not necessary, and add a needless tax burden to the District’s taxpayers.
However, Assistant Superintendent Larry Ramirez reported to the LISD Board of Trustees earlier this year that many of the renovations are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and would have to be undertaken whether the bond proposal passes or not.
The bond package also includes funding for construction of a new elementary school, although neither plans or a solid timeline are in place for that construction at this time. However, over the last six years, LISD has seen consistent growth in student population, and that growth is expected to continue in the future, triggering a need for yet another elementary school in the District.
Finally, $4.2 million has been earmarked for improvements to the remaining District campuses, many of which have gone without more than routine maintenance due to a lack of funding for upgrades. Summarized, those improvements include:
Bluebonnet Elementary: Remodel entry for security, install A/C in gym;
Carver Kindergarten: New traffic loop, additional parking, replace A/C controls, install A/C in gym, modify kitchen serving line; Navarro Elementary: Upgrade fire alarm, upgrade cabinets in classrooms, remodel restrooms, install A/C in gym, modify kitchen serving line;
Plum Creek Elementary: Upgrade fire alarm, replace door hardware, replace A/C controls, install A/C in gym, modify kitchen serving line;
Clear Fork Elementary: Remodel entry for security, painting throughout, replace tile flooring, remodel restrooms in classrooms, replace A/C controls, install A/C in gym, modify kitchen serving line;
Lockhart Junior High: Remodel entry for security, replace A/C controls, install A/C in sixth grade gym; and
M.L. Cisneros: Upgrade fire alarm, upgrade interior signage, ceiling tile replacement, asbestos abatement.
Though the renovations proposed at Lockhart High School are partially targeted toward reuniting the high school population and moving the freshman class back to the Lion Country Drive location, the M.L. Cisneros campus is expected to be retrofitted to support special education, community education and other administrative offices, as well as potentially the Discipline Management Center (LDMC) and Pride High School.
On average, if the bond package passes, LISD taxpayers can expect a $24.15 per month increase to their property taxes, based on an average home value of $89,793, as provided by the Caldwell County Appraisal District.
Early voting will be held from April 28 – May 6, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at LISD Central Office, 105 S. Colorado (Highway 183). Early voting locations will also be established at Lockhart High School, on May 1, 2014, from 2 – 9 p.m., and at Lockhart Junior High School on May 5-6, from 5 – 9 p.m. Election Day will be May 10, 2014.
Follow future editions of the Post-Register, or visit us online at www.post-register.com, for developing news about the LISD bond election.