The decision to use up what was left of HISD’s capital infrastructure money on a ninth-grade center—the first phase of the larger high school project—now opens the door for the district to explore calling a bond election in May or November 2019.
“If you build a ninth-grade center, well, it kind of opens a door,” HISD Superintendent Celina Estrada Thomas said. “The only way to build the next phase of that second high school is to go out to bond. But we want to be careful with how we roll that out.”
The HISD board of trustees voted Sept. 13 to sell off the remaining $54.1 million of its 2008 $138 million bond package to initiate construction on the district’s ninth-grade center.
On Oct. 16 the district sold its bonds with a AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s. Per the parameters laid out in the September board vote, the interest on the bonds may never rise above 4.11 percent.
“It’s basically like the school is going out to investors to say, ‘Invest your money in this district,’” HISD Chief Financial Officer Glenn Graham said.
HISD will receive a lump sum of more than $50 million sometime before November to begin construction of the ninth-grade center.
“In a couple of years we will be at capacity at HHS. Could we go a couple more years? Possibly, but we’d be in a really overcrowded situation,” Estrada Thomas said.
The funds will also used to build the district’s new, larger agricultural barn. Estrada Thomas said that barn will be delivered before the ninth-grade center. These buildings will be built on a 65-acre plot of land at the southeast corner of the CR 100 and FM 1660 North intersection.
The school district last called a bond election in May 2008. At that time the district proposed two bond packages. Voters approved the $138 million package to fund capital projects and land purchases but rejected a $9.94 million proposal for a natatorium.
Estrada Thomas said the district sat on most of the funds after the 2008 housing crisis and recession hit, during which the school district temporarily stopped growing.
Over the past decade, though, the district has seen enrollment grow by 56 percent, up more than 2,700 students. As enrollment trends upward, the district must find facilities to house its students.
Looking back the district has largely fulfilled the projects outlined in its 2008 bond proposition. HISD has built one elementary school, and a second is currently under construction. The district has purchased land and renovated heating, ventilation and air conditioning at multiple campuses, and now construction on the second high school is set to begin.
Now the district is analyzing its demographic reports to determine needs for its current and future student population. Currently it is unclear how much the district would need for facilities construction in any 2019 bond proposal.
“We’re in the process of studying our facilities and really looking at our needs before we make any decision on the next bond,” Estrada Thomas said.