At the Nov. 10 HISD board of trustees meeting, Trustee Robert Sitton, who also serves as board president, said the bidding process for ongoing 2018 bond projects has allowed projects to come in below their original estimated costs.
"The bid process that we're going through right now has been very favorable. That increased our savings," he said. "North Belt Elementary was really the next school in line based on the amount of money we were going to put into North Belt to bring it up to speed with the other schools in the district."
North Belt Elementary School, located at 8105 North Belt Drive in Humble, opened on 10.7 acres in January 1968, according to the school's website. The campus serves pre-K through fifth graders and is the oldest elementary building in the district behind Lakeland Elementary, which is also getting a rebuild.
The newly rebuilt $38 million North Belt campus will be located on 27 acres at Old Humble and Bender roads with a capacity of 950 students. The current school has about 750 students enrolled this year, HISD Public Communications Director Jamie Mount said.
North Belt Elementary Principal Christina Morris, who attended the meeting, said she was excited to have an updated campus that will be built to the modern design and educational standards of the district.
"It's significant to be able to provide our community and students with an updated learning environment that will be able to have the space and the technology and the innovation that Humble [ISD] has been pushing," she said.
Prioritizing the school
Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said rebuilding the almost 53-year-old campus has always been in the district's plans. HISD decided to prioritize the elementary school when the district saved roughly $35 million in 2018 bond projects; HISD has also committed roughly $4 million from the general fund balance for the project.
Savings were reallocated from several ongoing projects, including the synthetic turf fields at high schools, Elementary School No. 30, the North Transportation Center and the Charles Street Stadium, according to a bond fund reallocation agenda item.
Without the reallocated funding, Fagen said the North Belt Elementary rebuild as well as rebuilds to Foster Elementary School and Ross Sterling Middle School would likely have been included in the district's next bond package. Fagen said the current elementary school could be demolished and the site could be used for future facilities, such as an early childhood center.
"Those are older facilities that are unlikely to be renovated to a point of creating equal educational opportunities for all students," she said. "When you tour both [elementary] campuses, North Belt certainly rises to the occasion of the next campus to be redone. And that population of students, in my opinion, is ready for that next-level campus."
Nolan Correa, HISD's associate superintendent of operational support services, said the district will interview architecture firms and likely present a recommendation to the school board in December for approval. Correa said construction on the project could begin in early 2021 and be completed in time for the August 2022 school year.
With the exception of North Belt Elementary, HISD has now initiated all projects from the 2018 bond package. While district officials have not announced a future bond referendum, Mount said with the board authorizing the district to update the district's comprehensive facility assessment and long-range master plan at the meeting, another bond could be proposed in 2022 depending on the updated findings.
Prior to the May 2018 bond, voters approved a $245 million bond 10 years prior in 2008, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.
Correction: This article was updated to clarify that North Belt Elementary is now the oldest elementary building. It was also updated to clarify the board authorized an update to facility assessment, not a committee be formed.