In the next five years all but one elementary school in Carroll ISD is projected to be over capacity, district officials say.
To help alleviate capacity issues, the district’s board of trustees voted unanimously in February to call for a $208 million bond election for May 6 that includes classroom additions at all five elementary schools in the district.
CISD board President Chris Archer said the classroom additions would help alleviate crowding in the next five years. The bond is not expected to cause a tax rate increase.
“We looked at several options that would address capacity,” he said. “We even considered adding a sixth elementary, but the amount of money it would take to build and operate it wasn’t justifiable to us. We wanted to find a way to alleviate capacity issues without presenting a bond that would include a tax increase.”
The proposed bond also includes funds for technology upgrades, turfing of fields, renovations and repairs to the district’s aquatic center as well as maintenance projects at every school.
A political action committee, Dragons for Fiscal Responsibility and Strong Schools, formed against the bond.
“We are not against bonds or Carroll ISD, but we feel like the district and staff needs refocusing,” said Bill Zimmerman, who is part of the PAC. “We are concerned with some of the spending trends that may indicate that [the district is] missing the mark.”
The need for immediate help
Currently, Johnson Elementary School and Old Union Elementary School are the only two elementary schools over capacity. For the 2017-18 school year, capacity issues are expected to worsen at the two schools.
Johnson is expected to have 657 students; its capacity is 560 students. Old Union, which has a capacity of 441 students, is projected to have 483 students attending during the 2017-18 school year.
Bob Templeton, whose company provides demographic information for the district, said the district is experiencing growth because of a strong job and housing market in Southlake.
“The district is geographically located in a spot that is in the midst of a real surge in job growth that’s taking place along [SH] 114,” he said. “The 114 corridor is experiencing very strong job growth with companies like TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab coming in.”
Templeton said developers are continuing to build houses in the district because of the job market growth.
“With Carroll there has been a pretty consistent housing growth over the last five years, and roughly, they have about 1,000 vacant and future lots that are in the process of being developed and built,” he said.
One of those housing developments that can add to Johnson’s overcrowding in the near future is Carillon, which has 403 total lots with 44 homes under construction and 76 vacant lots that are ready to be developed.
“[Carillon is] located just north of 114, and it’s kind of in that vicinity where job growth is taking place,” Templeton said. “They definitely have a lot of future growth, and all of those students are going to be in the Johnson attendance zone.”
He said although the elementary schools are experiencing the most severe capacity issues, the rest of the schools in the district are growing in attendance as well.
“All are seeing growth, but they have more capacity than the elementary schools,” he said. “It’s all relative to how much capacity you have.”
A plan for capacity issues
Superintendent David Faltys said if the bond passes Old Union would receive eight classrooms and Johnson six. He said if it the bond fails, portables would be added at the campuses.
“However, the city ordinance for portables [on campuses] is three years,” he said. “So we would probably have to come back and ask our voters what they would support and just kind of revisit it.”
Faltys said the board and staff will have to continue to look for ways to address capacity at the elementary schools even if the bond is passed, and attendance rezoning is a possibility.
“One thing that the board did ask us to look at after we get [the bond] in place is they would like for us to look at a sixth elementary school or look at doing some type of grade realignment in the future,” he said. “And either one of those would require some rezoning.”
Another possibility, he said, is relocating some of the preschool classes.
“There are three preschool classrooms at Old Union, which we moved a couple of preschool classrooms over there because Rockenbaugh [Elementary] and Carroll Elementary were getting pretty full. So there could be some adjustment there that we do instead of a district-wide rezoning.”
Faltys said the preschool classes would more than likely be moved to Walnut Grove Elementary School, which has more capacity.
“Walnut Grove has been pushing 700 [students] the last three or four years,” he said. “However, the current demographic projection is saying they are going to get closer to 600 in the next five years.”
Other bond projects
Archer said about half of the bond, if passed, would go toward maintenance and upkeep projects, such as new roofs; ceilings; heating, ventilation and air conditioning units; and paint.
Besides maintenance projects, $24 million would be spent on a 700-seat performing arts auditorium that would include band halls, choir halls, classroom space, offices, storage and practice rooms.
The auditorium would be constructed at Carroll Senior High School.
Faltys said by constructing this facility, both bands at CSHS and at Carroll High School would be under one roof. This would also free up space at CHS to move the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program to newly renovated facilities in the former CHS band hall. The move would also create classroom space for other programs, Faltys said.
Zimmerman said the PAC is questioning the bond’s priorities, such as the new auditorium.
“In this bond we are taking on a large amount of debt—like $24 million for a band hall that costs as much as a whole school building but will be smaller than where [the band] now plays,” he said. “If you don’t have money to staff a sixth school, why are you spending money on an accessory building?”
The bond also includes more than $40 million in technology upgrades for the district.
“I think the technology upgrades in the classrooms is going to be exciting,” Faltys said. “The technology teachers have in their classrooms now [was] purchased with money from the  bond, which means it is seven or eight years old. Most of us don’t even have technology in our home that’s that old, so we are excited about that.”
Zimmerman said bond money should not be spent on technology.
“Technology is super expensive and quick to go obsolete,” he said. “We think technology is an important tool, but we think the most important thing that Carroll ISD can do as a school district is put an outstanding teacher in every classroom.
“So we are seeing a concern that the district is going down the wrong path by spending so much on technology and not spending as much on taking care of their teachers. We think that a great teacher in a classroom can do far more than an iPad or internet access.”
Although bond money cannot be used for pay increases for teachers, Zimmerman said the district should consider other ways of increasing teachers’ pay before adding bond debt.
Archer said the bond projects would benefit every student in the district.
“I feel so strongly that this is going to be great for current and future students,” he said. “There is not a downside to it, especially because this bond will not require a tax increase. We are all Dragons. It’s our responsibility to leave the schools in a better position for the future.”