Bal­lot has mil­lions in school bonds

Vot­ers will de­cide on up­grades to fa­cil­i­ties at two dis­tricts in south­ern Bexar County

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - By Alia Ma­lik

When early vot­ing be­gins Oct. 22, res­i­dents of two school dis­tricts on Bexar County’s south­ern edges will be asked to ap­prove bond is­sues for new and im­proved fa­cil­i­ties.

About 14,000 stu­dents at­tend South­west ISD, which in­cludes denser res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods and ru­ral ar­eas. The school dis­trict grew rapidly un­til en­roll­ment re­cently plateaued, but two new de­vel­op­ments will add hun­dreds of new homes in the area, Su­per­in­ten­dent Lloyd Ver­stuyft said. Dis­trict vot­ers last ap­proved a bond six years ago, fund­ing the new Legacy High and Res­nik Mid­dle schools.

The new pro­posal in­cludes $17.2 mil­lion for a nata­to­rium that would be open to the pub­lic in the sum­mer, Ver­stuyft said. The city of San An­to­nio has al­ready al­lo­cated $4 mil­lion for the fa­cil­ity, which would be next to McAuliffe Mid­dle School off Loop 410 near sev­eral sub­divi-

sions. The dis­trict uses Palo Alto Col­lege’s nata­to­rium for sec­ond­grade swim lessons and high school var­sity com­pe­ti­tion, but it’s in such high de­mand that the team’s prac­tice times are lim­ited, he said.

“We think a nata­to­rium also could be an eco­nomic driver in our back­yard,” Ver­stuyft said. “We’re try­ing to build for the fu­ture of South­west ISD, and we think this would be one of those mech­a­nisms that would en­cour­age peo­ple to move into this side of San An­to­nio.”

25 years with­out up­grades

The bond pack­age also in­cludes $18.2 mil­lion for ren­o­va­tions to South­west High School, which is more than 30 years old, and $12.8 mil­lion for up­grades at Scobee Mid­dle School.

One tar­get for mod­ern­iza­tion is South­west High’s health academy, with lec­ture and lab spa­ces for stu­dents work­ing to­ward nurs­ing as­sis­tant cer­ti­fi­ca­tions or other med­i­cal ca­reers, Ver­stuyft said.

Among the dis­trict’s four mid­dle schools, Scobee has gone the long­est with­out ma­jor ren­ova- tions, about 25 years, he said. Ag­ing equip­ment, ceil­ings, floors and walls would be re­paired or re­placed. The cafe­te­ria would get more space for serv­ing lines and mu­sic halls would get up­graded sound bar­ri­ers, said Bran­don Crisp, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent for busi­ness and fi­nance.

South­west’s bond pro­posal would also up­grade head­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air con­di­tion­ing, re­place roofs at four schools, pur­chase more com­puter tablets for stu­dents, re­place school buses, resur­face tracks at all the mid­dle schools and ren­o­vate the bus de­pot.

A 45-mem­ber panel of com­mu­nity mem­bers and dis­trict em­ploy­ees rec­om­mended South­west’s board take the pro­posal to the vot­ers as an op­por- tu­nity to set the dis­trict up for the next “gen­er­a­tion of learn­ers,” Ver­stuyft said.

South­west ISD would not need to in­crease taxes if vot­ers ap­prove the bond be­cause the dis­trict has paid enough of its cur­rent debt to take on more, Crisp said.

$14.6M in­door fa­cil­ity

About 6,000 stu­dents at­tend South­side ISD, where vot­ers last year ap­proved a bond that paid for con­struc­tion of the Men­chaca Early Child­hood Cen­ter, ad­di­tions to South­side High School and the con­ver­sion of Losoya In­ter­me­di­ate into a mid­dle school.

That bond had been ex­pected to in­crease the av­er­age South­side ISD home­owner’s tax bill by $7.25 per month, but ris­ing prop­erty val­ues al­lowed the dis­trict to sub­se­quently lower its tax rate for debt ser­vice by 3 cents per $100, said dis­trict spokesman Randy Es­camilla.

This year’s pro­posal would in­clude a $14.6 mil­lion mul­ti­pur­pose in­door fa­cil­ity for band, dance, cheer­lead­ing, Re­serve Of­fi­cers’ Train­ing Corps and com­mu­nity use, Es­camilla said.

It would also ren­o­vate locker rooms through­out the dis­trict and up­grade the track at Matthey Mid­dle School. The high school would get six ten­nis courts, and Losoya Mid­dle would get a prac­tice field. Im­prove­ments to park­ing and se­cu­rity at the dis­trict’s sta­dium and pedes­trian walk­ways and light­ing in park­ing lots also would be funded.

“The aca­demic is­sues that we ad­dressed in Bond 2017 were press­ing is­sues re­gard­ing the growth in our dis­trict,” Es­camilla said. “We knew we’d face push­back to ath­letic en­hance­ments and we did not want to jeop­ar­dize the pas­sage of the aca­demic bond. ... These are all needs that our com­mu­nity and lead­er­ship team ex­am­ined, and since there was no in­crease in prop­erty taxes, it was felt that this was the best de­ci­sion for the needs of our com­mu­nity.”

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