“It is a process that started with our facilities study that was conducted last year,” said Dr. Brett Belmarez, school superintendent.
“The study concluded that the elementary and the high school were in similar condition,” he said.
“Obviously we can’t tackle everything at once, so trustees have decided to tackle the elementary first.”
According to that study by the Texas Association of School Administrators, the elementary school building is “educationally and economically obsolete.”
That study also suggested the building of a new high school – something not yet on the board’s agendas.
More than 90 percent of the classrooms in the elementary school and high school are smaller than state minimum standards and don’t lend themselves to cost-effective “fixing” for long-term use, the study also said.
Paul Trautman, who has been studying the layout and condition of the three Skidmore-Tynan ISD campuses, told trustees earlier this year that along with building the new school, he would recommend moving it from its current location.
Following that recommendation, the new elementary school will be built adjacent to the district’s campus.
“Right now our elementary school is in three or four different segments through the district,” Belmarez said. “This would actually stand apart, and alone, and things would be consolidated under one roof in a more safe and secure environment.”
The decision to tackle the elementary school first was partly because of the sprawling nature of that campus but also financial.
“The cost to build an elementary school as opposed to a high school is enormous. A high school would cost double this amount,” he said.
The new elementary school, if approved by voters during the Nov. 2 election, will sit just west of the football field on 27 1/2 acres of land purchased Aug. 1 for $200,000.
“We were actually in the process of buying it for a couple of years and finally completed the purchase this August,” he said.
The property is just raw land with nothing on it.
“The district architect has already done some preliminary work and that elementary school will fit nicely on there with room to spare,” Belmarez said. “An elementary school takes about 10 acres. That is the industry standard.”
Belmarez said that the current economic condition is both a blessing and a curse for the district asking for money to build a new school.
Interest rates are low as is the cost to build. “It would be a good time to take advantage of low interest rates,” he said.
“On the other side of the coin, we are also in a rocky economy.
“We are sensitive to any kind of request to our taxpayers and voters,” he said. “Any amount today is a lot.
“That is why our trustees have hired an architect that is taking a prudent approach.”
The school, he said, would be “nice, safe and adequate” but not a “Cadillac” of schools.
It is proposed to handle about 400 students. “It leaves room for a little bit of growth and we have been growing as a school district,” Belmarez said.
This coming year, about 370 students will be taught on the elementary campus.
The plan is that while the new school is being built, elementary age youngsters will continue learning in the same buildings. Completion will take about year and students won’t be using the new school until the 2012-13 school year. That building however, will still see use, once some renovations are made.
“We would leave that building up and use it for our growing junior high and high schools,” Belmarez said. “We are trying to be prudent and use that hypothetically empty building to house what is coming in to our junior high and high schools. I want to make it clear that the existing elementary school will not be torn down but the portable buildings will be removed.”
Belmarez expressed his appreciation to the work done by the eight community members who volunteered to serve on the facility study committee.
“We had a group of eight board-appointed volunteers that served on the committee that guided this process,” he said. “They presented great ideas and asked great questions.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the committee members.”
Members of that committee are Sal Soto, Arnold Gonzales, Paul Ables, Gabriel Hinojosa, Pat Dougherty, Thomas Mengers, Rockie Stautzenberger and Eddie Salas.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.