Henderson set to vote on middle school bond

HENDERSON (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Henderson ISD could get a new middle school if voters approve an upcoming bond issue.

Trustees unanimously called a bond election for the facility Monday afternoon, prompting applause from audience members. Board members did not comment before a vote was taken.

The $27 million bond would fund a new middle school on the site of the current facility. The district plans to incorporate three older middle school buildings, including the band hall and sixth-grade wing, into a new campus.

Three people spoke in favor of the bond during Monday's meeting.

Longtime resident Kenneth Orr said a new middle school is needed, and he believes it's a great time to build right now because of low interest rates and commercial building contractors are looking for work.

He said he also believes the project would bring money into town during construction.

It's "a no-brainer we proceed with this right now," Orr said.

Kacy Kersh, with the Wylie Primary School Parent-Teacher Organization, said she's excited for the bond proposal and has received positive feedback.

"We're eager to share our excitement with our parents and our community," she said, adding after the vote, "Everybody's just really excited. ... It's time."

Jennifer Ellis, with the Wylie Elementary School PTO, said people at the elementary school also are thrilled about the proposal, and there is a group that indicated they would volunteer to help with the election.

She also said the elementary children likely will be the first children to enjoy the new middle school, and it will be a safer facility.

The bond election is scheduled for May 11.

If the issue passed, there would be about a 9-cent tax rate increase for district residents. That means someone with a $100,000 home in the district would pay an additional $4.88 per month.

As far as looks, Superintendent Keith Boles has said the new school would be one story, and students would no longer have to go outside in between classes because everything would be under one roof.

Safety is a big concern at Henderson Middle School because there are nine separate buildings and more than 40 entrances, Stacey Sullivan, director of human resources and communication, has said.

The age of the building also is a concern, she said earlier this month, citing foundation issues, two classrooms that no longer are deemed safe and less than adequate technology infrastructure.

She said Henderson High School has advanced technology as well as a Bring Your Own Device program, which allows students to use electronic devices, such as tablets, cellphones and laptops in classrooms with teacher permission. However, the district cannot do the same at the current middle school, Ms. Sullivan said earlier this month.

She also has said classroom sizes at the middle school are not in line with Texas Education Agency standards, and the school is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

If the bond passed, the district would have community and staff committees that would meet with the architect and help with the middle school's design, Boles has said.

This is the third time that a new middle school has gone before the public.

In 2011, voters narrowly defeated a $26 million bond that would have funded a middle school.

Before that bond, a $39.2 million bond failed in November 2010 that would have funded a middle school, renovations and additions at Northside Intermediate School, an auditorium at Henderson High School and artificial turf at Lions Stadium.

This time around, Boles said he believes there is already great enthusiasm for the bond, given that there was a 7-0 vote from the board and solidarity from others.

"We got so close last time. We just (have) to get the message out about the needs (and district growth)," he said.

Boles said the current middle school is full and houses 770 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. In kindergarten, first and second grades, Henderson ISD has an estimated 900 students. Boles said core classes at the new middle school would have a capacity for about 975.

The new middle school is slated to take two years, potentially making it ready for students in August 2015.


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