During the June 15 Board meeting, the co-chairs of the Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) presented its recommendations to the Leander ISD Board of Trustees. Their presentation was the culmination of five months and many, many hours of meetings, research, facility tours, conversations and deliberation on the parts of the steering committee and subcommittees. After carefully weighing the long list of identified needs, the BAC ultimately identified $453,860,841 in new facilities, campus additions and land purchases to meet increasing student enrollment; campus safety upgrades; and maintenance upgrades to older buildings.
Co-chairs Victor Villarreal, Ph.D., and Shaun Cranston, P.Eng., have done an outstanding job leading the BAC through this lengthy and challenging process. Last month, the steering committee was tasked with prioritizing and narrowing the scope of the proposed project lists submitted by the five subcommittees, totaling nearly $1.2 billion. As Dr. Villarreal and Mr. Cranston reported to the Board, while there were a number of worthwhile projects on the list, they agreed to prioritize items that support growth, student safety and maintenance/operations.
These guidelines allowed the steering committee to narrow the list of needs to just under $495 million. The co-chairs then met with me and several members of our district’s finance, facilities and curriculum teams to ensure all items accommodated projected student growth, safety standards, educational goals, etc. The resulting list brought us to the $454 million figure that was presented to the Board.
While the entire presentation, including an itemized project list, will be made available via the bond page on the LISD website, I wanted to touch on a few of the larger projects. In the high school category, the BAC recommended funds to design our seventh high school; purchase land for our eighth high school; construct a planned addition to Vandegrift High School to accommodate student growth; expand or update fine arts and Career and Technology Education (CTE) facilities; and make security upgrades at our high schools.
In the middle school category, recommendations include the design and construction of our ninth middle school; purchase of land for our eleventh middle school; performance of major maintenance – repairing/replacing HVAC, lighting, carpet, and repainting – on our two oldest middle schools; make security upgrades to all middle schools; and build a permanent structure to replace the decades-old Leander Middle School portables.
In the elementary school category, major projects include the design and construction of three additional elementary schools; purchase of land for another seven schools; performance of major maintenance on two schools; and upgrade of traffic gates on 10 schools.
In the technology and ancillary categories, the BAC has proposed funds to replace network infrastructure; replace outdated device hardware; purchase 88 buses; and construct an additional transportation facility to relieve bus routes from the central facility and address high student grown in the northern part of the district.
The BAC also outlined five optional items totaling $9.86 million that mainly focus on CTE programs. The larger of these optional items include construction of agriculture barns at Vandegrift and Glenn high schools and renovations to the barn at Leander High School; additions to the JROTC building at Vista Ridge High School; and two CTE Incubator classrooms. The Board is also considering other items that may be included in a future bond package that were discussed by the BAC.
This list of recommended projects will cover the needs of the district for the next four years, which is historically how long LISD bond cycles have lasted. The last bond was held in 2007, through which LISD voters approved a $559 million bond package. That bond was meant to last three years, but because of the 2008 recession and extenuating circumstances, those funds have been stretched over 10 years and 11,828 new students, thanks in large part to extreme financial prudence by the Board of Trustees and district finance team.
Over the next month or so, the Board will deliberate over the BAC recommendations and feedback provided at the Board meeting. At the same time, the survey experts we have partnered with, Dr. Robert Stein and his team from Rice University, will also conduct a phone survey of voters in our district to gauge interest in certain bond issues. Because this will be a random sample survey, not everyone will be contacted; however, if you are selected, I would encourage you to please participate. Your knowledge and input is extremely valuable in this process.
Dr. Stein is scheduled to present the survey findings, as well as his recommendations, during the July 20 Board meeting. Our Board of Trustees will then use the following weeks and the Aug. 3 meeting to discuss and consider all the recommendations they will have received. At the Aug. 17 meeting, they will decide whether or not to call for a bond election.
I am once again extremely grateful for the passion, time and energy invested by so many in our community. A bond proposal can create a valuable road map for our district’s future, impacting not only the more than 38,000 students in LISD, but the thousands of families that will become a part of our district in the coming years. It can send a message to our future generation that we are invested in their bright futures.