“It definitely doesn't solve all of our issues, but I think it gets us to the point that we can then begin looking at elementary boundaries,” McDowell said.
The addition will add space for approximately 141 students, according to plans updated Aug. 15. The current building capacity is approximately 842 students.
“We already have three rooms that we are using [for extra capacity] in the building, which really need to go back to special programs,” McDowell said.
Gulledge has been at 85% capacity or more since the 2017-18 school year, and projections by McDowell show the school's numbers continuing to rise steadily. Enrollment is at roughly 758 this year, according to McDowell’s presentation.
“Their enrollment is projected to continue to increase and the demographer has it peaking out at about 800,” McDowell said. “As we look at it, we think we need to add five to six classrooms if we’re not going to move any students out of there, just to accommodate the students that we already have.”
The project is expected to complete its design in October. Construction is expected to start in February 2020, with completion set for August 2020. For the project to be completed in time, a construction manager must be hired in September, McDowell said. The Gulledge capacity project will be considered Sept. 3 at the next PISD board meeting.
“As I’ve told the cabinet, this is a project we can’t tap the brakes on,” McDowell said. “If we tap, we can’t make it happen; it is such a tight timeline.”
The addition is projected to cost nearly $4 million. The costs will be allocated from the 2016 bond program, according to McDowell. The addition will also serve as a tornado shelter, and the cost per square foot nearly doubles when building a storm shelter, McDowell said.
Gulledge feeds into the same middle school as two other elementary schools also projected to reach 85% capacity or more, according to McDowell. Haun Elementary remains close to staying under the 85% cutoff through the years, but Daffron Elementary will likely reach full capacity sooner than expected due to an influx of bilingual students, McDowell said.
“We will continue to work on that; we just wanted to plant that seed and let you know there is also an issue with Daffron, but it’s primarily because of the bilingual program,” McDowell said.
Daffron is currently a transfer location for area bilingual students. Jackson Elementary is another option for bilingual transfers and will likely be considered as a location to move students to in the future, McDowell said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Haun Elementary School. The post has since been updated.