Conroe ISD will ask district voters to approve $487 million in bonds Nov. 3 to build five new schools—a junior high school in the Conroe High School feeder zone and four additional schools in the Oak Ridge High School feeder zone.

A district demographic study, ordered by CISD and released in January, indicated the district’s student population will increase by 30 percent over the next 10 years, CISD Superintendent Don Stockton said.

“The Oak Ridge feeder [zone] was shown to be the area impacted the greatest by this growth,” he said.

CISD ranked as the sixth-fastest-growing large school district in Texas in fall 2014, according to the study conducted by Population and Survey Analysts. A large school district is defined as one with more than 20,000 students.

The bond proposal includes one junior high school in the Conroe High School feeder zone as well as one high school, one intermediate school and two elementary schools in the Oak Ridge High School feeder zone.

Schoolhouse Bond District plans new schools, facility upgrades[/caption]

Bond details

CISD’s Facility Planning Committee, a 23-person group charged with determining the district’s needs, made recommendations in June that were designed to serve the entire school district and all of the schools in a period of tremendous population growth, Stockton said.

“We have averaged over 1,500 students a year for the last 20 years, and even when the economy is in a downturn we have continued to grow,” Stockton said.

The new junior high school will have the capacity to serve 1,500 students. Stockton said the school is modeled after Peet Junior High School and will be located northwest of the Hwy. 105 East intersection with Loop 336 in Conroe.

The school is tentatively scheduled to open in August 2019 with construction expected to begin about two years prior, Stockton said.

“Both Washington Junior High School and Peet Junior High School are going to go over capacity in the very near future, which gave us the need for an additional facility,” Stockton said.

New elementary, intermediate school and high schools are planned within the Riley Fuzzel Road corridor along with an additional elementary school in Harper’s Preserve along
Hwy. 242 to increase student capacity within the Oak Ridge High School feeder zone, according to the district.

In addition to the five new schools, the bond will fund land purchases for future school sites as well as 10 new science classrooms at Knox Junior High School in The Woodlands.

Stockton said the bond proposal includes no tax increase because of the rise in property values within
CISD boundaries.

Stockton said the original bond proposal was for $511 million, but the district was able to scale down that amount by using available cash from previous budgets—nearly $25 million—for smaller projects.

Development drives need

Current enrollment Of the school districts in Texas with more than 20,000 students, Conroe ISD ranked sixth in fastest growth this fall.[/caption]

The growth in CISD and its needs are driven by the residential draw to the area, Stockton said.

“Historically, we have grown in all types of [economic] situations year after year,” Stockton said. “We continue to see incredible growth, especially in the near future when the availability of homes will increase.”

According to the demographic study, ORHS will surpass its capacity by more students than any other high school in the district by 2024. The district expects the school to exceed its capacity by 1,500 students in 2024 with a projected enrollment of more than 5,300 students.

Sam Yager III, vice president of
242 LLC—which is developing Harper’s Preserve along Hwy. 242 in Conroe—said the company is in the process of selling a 17-acre site to the district for the elementary school planned for the Hwy. 242 corridor. The school would be located within Conroe city limits but would serve students in the ORHS feeder zone.

“As you go east on Hwy. 242,
Conroe ISD is doing a lot of things out there,” Yager said. “They built Irons [Junior High] School on the north side of
[Hwy.] 242, and now they contracted with us to build a $30 million [or more] elementary school in our community. So you are not really going to have to get on the highway to get to school, and that is a change. They are looking at the demographics.”

The elementary school in Harper’s Preserve is tentatively scheduled to open in August 2019, according to the school district.

Jim Holcomb, president of Holcomb Properties—the developer of master-planned communities Imperial Oaks and Meadows at Imperial Oaks—said his properties are tipping the scale of population growth in the ORHS area and creating the need for more schools.

“What’s happened over there is that we have experienced over the last
10 years a big surge of residential growth,” Holcomb said. “And it’s actually going to get bigger.”

Holcomb said schools near the communities are exceeding capacity limits.

“Birnham Woods [Elementary School] is getting loaded because of [the developments],” Holcomb said. “We’re expanding—we still have probably 1,000 more homes and additional lots to bring on there.”

The increases in resident population in some areas of CISD are resulting in larger student-teacher ratios than is preferred by the state. The state of Texas standard student-teacher ratio is 22-to-1 while Cox Intermediate School employs one teacher for every 26 students, according to CISD.

District needs [polldaddy poll=9138360]

In addition to proposing five new schools, the committee recommended the bond proposal include replacing life cycle items throughout the district. They include boilers, heating, venting and air conditioning systems as well as roofing at some schools.

The initial bond proposal totaled
$511 million and included these projects. However, those infrastructure projects will not be paid for with school bond funds.

“We pulled all [those] items out of the bond and are electing to pay for those [projects] with cash that have a life cycle of less than our bond,” CISD school board president John Husbands said. “A lot of the technology that we are buying—and buses—are shorter life span items we pulled out, and that’s why we went [down to] $487 million.”

Husbands said the district plans to use bond funds to enhance the learning environment for students.

“We’re not just building things so we can admire pretty buildings,” he said. “We’re building things so kids can get a great education. We can be conservative all we want, but if we’re not getting the academics done then we’re not achieving our mission.”