Nearly half of all voter-approved projects will be under construction by 2014
The Houston Independent School District today announced the construction timeline for the 40 schools slated to be built or renovated under the voter-approved $1.89 billion 2012 bond program. Continue reading →
Thirty-eight Houston Independent School District campuses, including 28 of the city’s high schools, will be rebuilt or renovated under a bond proposition that won voter approval by better than a 2-1 margin on Tuesday.
The $1.89 billion measure passed with overwhelming support, earning 69 percent voter approval, according to unofficial results tabulated by the Harris County Clerk’s office. More than 312,000 ballots were cast in the election.
“Houston voters sent a message today that all children, regardless of where they live, deserve to attend quality school in quality buildings that offer our great teachers the tools they need to prepare students for a successful future,” said Trustee Michael Lunceford, president of the HISD Board of Education. “The new schools that will be built because of this vote will benefit today’s students, their future children, and even their grandchildren.”
HISD asked voters to consider the bond proposition after an independent evaluation of the district’s facilities showed that the average Houston high school is more than 50 years old and lacks the proper infrastructure to support modern technology and teaching strategies. The evaluation found that the cost of maintaining these deteriorating schools would soon surpass the replacement cost. Past HISD bond measures, including the 2007 plan that was passed with 51 percent of the vote, have focused on the district’s elementary and middle schools.
Because of the large amount of construction included in the 2012 bond proposition, HISD will spread the work out over the next six to eight years. This approach will help control costs and allow the district to gradually phase in a 4.85-cent property tax rate increase over the next five years. The district will soon seek bids from firms interested in performing the architectural design and engineering work on the first batch of projects. The list of school projects to be included in the first phase of construction is being developed with an eye toward breaking ground on at least one project in each geographic district within HISD around the same time. Construction work is expected to begin in 2014. Click here for more details about the 2012 bond package.
“When this work is finished, Houston will boast the most modern portfolio of urban high school campuses in America,” Superintendent Terry Grier said. “For years, HISD has been a national model for other urban school districts that are striving to simultaneously close the achievement gap while raising the level of achievement of all students, including the highest performers. Thanks to Houston’s voters, we will finally have quality campuses to fully support our students’ strong academic progress.”
Projects funded though the bond proposition include:
New campuses for 20 high schools
High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
North Early College
South Early College
Partially replacing 4 high schools
Young Men’s College Prep Academy
Young Women’s College Prep Academy
Renovating 4 high schools
Converting 5 elementary schools into K-8 campuses
Garden Oaks Montessori
Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion School at Gordon
Wharton Dual Language School
Building 3 new elementary school campuses
Relief school on the west side
Replacing/completing 2 new middle school campuses
Grady (new addition to complete new campus)
Dowling (new campus)
In addition, the bond includes funds that would improve conditions for students in all HISD schools. This includes:
$100 million for district-wide technology improvements
$44.7 million to replace regional field houses and improve athletic facilities
$35 million to renovate middle school restrooms
$17.3 million for district-wide safety and security improvements
The Board of Education has also agreed to rebuild two schools – Condit Elementary and High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice – either through the sale of surplus district property, or by using any potential leftover bond funds.
Historic neighborhood schools and prestigious schools of choice to be replaced
HISD will now completely rebuild some of Houston’s most historic neighborhood high schools across the city. Some replacement schools will maintain their existing building structures while their interiors are transformed. These schools include Austin, Davis, Lamar, and Milby. The remaining replacement schools, including Yates, Washington, and Lee, will be demolished and replaced with entirely new buildings. New campuses are also in the works for some of HISD’s prestigious specialty schools, including the nationally renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, DeBakey High School for Health Professions, and Eastwood Academy. All three schools made this year’s Children at Risk list of the Houston region’s Top 10 high schools.
The new HSPVA will be built downtown near Houston’s vaunted Theater District on land that HISD already owns at 1300 Capitol. DeBakey, meanwhile, will be relocated to property within the Texas Medical Center.
Each campus included in the bond package will have a Project Advisory Team made up of staff, parents, and community members, who will have input in the design and construction process to ensure that each school’s unique needs are addressed.
New schools to support continued academic achievement
Houston ISD students have made great strides in the classroom over the past several years. Click here to read more about the strong academic progress being made by HISD students.
“We know that what happens inside our classrooms is more important than the physical classrooms themselves. Our work to put effective teachers in every classroom and strong principals in every school is paying off,” Dr. Grier said.
HISD’s dropout and graduation rates are at record levels after four consecutive years of moving in the right direction. Hundreds more Houston students are scoring at the college-ready level on the SAT than at any other time in the district’s history. The same goes for the number of HISD students earning college credit through tough Advanced Placement exams, which is up 45 percent since 2009. And this year, Houston was the only Texas school district to be among the four finalists for the nation’s most prestigious education award: the Broad Prize for Urban Education.
Forty-two schools across Houston, including 24 high schools, would be rebuilt, renovated, or renewed under a recommended bond package presented for the HISD Board of Education’s consideration on Thursday.
The board must decide by August whether to seek approval of the $1.89 billion proposal from Houston Independent School District voters during the Nov. 6 general election.
While including nearly $225 million in recommended projects that would benefit students at all 279 schools in the district, the proposed bond package focuses heavily on the city’s high schools. HISD’s most recent bond programs approved by voters in 1998, 2002 and 2007 have primarily addressed needs at the elementary school level. The average age of HISD secondary schools now stands at 50 years, compared to 39 years for the district’s elementary schools.
Many of these schools were designed to meet the needs of students in the 1950s and are no longer able to accommodate the best instructional approaches for helping today’s students meet rising academic expectations, according to independent school facilities experts who presented their findings to the board on Thursday.
Superintendent Terry Grier agreed the district’s high schools are long overdue for major improvements.
“Houston’s prosperity of today is rooted in the historic high schools erected generations ago by our city’s visionary leaders who knew the value of a solid long-term investment,” Dr. Grier said. “Now is the time for today’s generation to step up and follow their lead. Houston’s high schools should be places of pride for every neighborhood and, more importantly, the students they serve. Just like the baby boomers of the 1950s, our children today deserve modern campuses that will bring real value to their neighborhoods for the 50 years to come.”
The proposed bond package would completely rebuild some of Houston’s most historic neighborhood high schools across the city, while others would undergo renovations and renewals. The proposal also includes new campuses for some of HISD’s prestigious specialty magnet schools, including the nationally renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The new HSPVA would be built downtown near Houston’s vaunted Theater District on land that HISD already owns at 1300 Capitol.
The proposal calls for $1.67 billion to be spent on improvements at 42 schools. This would cover:
$577 million to completely replace 8 high schools
High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
Booker T. Washington
$354 million to replace the inadequate facilities at 4 high schools
$259 million to replace inadequate facilities and renovate 5 high schools
$27 million to build 2 new early college high schools
North Early College
South Early College
$61 million to renovate or renew 9 high schools
Young Men’s College Prep
Young Women’s College Prep
$121 million to convert 4 elementary schools into K-8 campuses
Wharton Dual Language
Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School at Gordon
$74 million to replace Dowling Middle School and expand Grady Middle School
$126 million to replace 5 elementary schools
$67 million to renovate and make building additions at K. Smith Elementary, replace inadequate facilities and renovate Tijerina Elementary, and build a new elementary school on the district’s west end to reduce overcrowding
The proposed $225 million in district wide projects would cover:
Technology upgrades at all HISD schools ($100 million)
District athletic facility improvements ($42.7 million)
Middle school restroom renovations ($35 million)
Safety and security improvements ($27 million)
Land acquisition ($20 million)
Some of the schools recommended for major construction work are among those that had renovations under the 2007 bond program. In many of those cases, the previously completed work will be incorporated into the new building design, said Leo Bobadilla, HISD’s Chief Operating Officer.
School community input included in plan
Earlier this spring, HISD hired Parsons — national specialists in the assessment, design, and project management of education facilities — to update the 2007 comprehensive assessment of the HISD’s facilities. HISD principals were asked to engage their campus communities as they completed detailed surveys about the condition of their schools. More than 3,300 parents, teachers, and community members representing 95 percent of the district’s schools participated in this feedback process. Some of the specific facility issues raised by school communities in the surveys will be addressed outside of the recommended bond through HISD’s normal building maintenance program.
Links to school community survey results for each campus, along with more details about the data that helped formulate the proposal, are posted online at houstonisd.org.
Using this school community input, existing data from 2007, and information about the condition of HISD campuses based on work completed since 2007, Parsons experts personally inspected dozens of schools and interviewed principals and plant operators to develop the list of campuses included in the bond proposal. They took several factors into account while developing this list:
Overall building condition
Each school’s educational suitability and technology readiness
Enrollment projections and capacity
Even with the many projects included in the bond proposal, HISD schools still have many additional facility needs that remain unaddressed, according to the report presented to the board. Those needs will be identified as HISD moves forward with developing a comprehensive long-range capital improvement plan.
Property tax implications
Because of the district’s strong fiscal management practices, HISD has been able to maintain the lowest property tax rate of the 20-plus school districts in Harris County. In addition, HISD is among the few districts in Texas that offer an optional 20 percent homestead exemption on top of the standard $15,000 exemption that other school districts offer. This means that a home with a taxable value of $200,000 in another school district that doesn’t offer the optional 20 percent exemption would be taxed at a value of $160,000 in HISD (a 20 percent reduction).
If an election is called, and voters approve the bond package, HISD would likely adopt a property tax rate increase in the future. This tax rate increase would have no impact on the homesteads of HISD residents age 65 and older, because their tax rates are frozen.
HISD estimates that the tax rate increase would be phased in over a 4-year period, beginning with an estimated 2-cent increase in 2014. This would result in an additional $29 in taxes for the owner of a home valued at $200,000. By 2017, the total tax rate increase resulting from the bond’s passage would reach 6.85 cents, raising the average tax bill by $99 a year, or $8.25 per month.
School construction and renovation work approved by HISD voters in 2007 is nearing completion under budget. So far, HISD has opened 16 new or replacement schools under that bond program, 6 more new schools are under construction, and 2 more are in the planning stage. More than 100 HISD campuses have undergone renovations so far. Click here for more detailed information about the work completed under the 2007 bond program.