According to a news release sent out by the district March 2, the committee reviewed recommendations for new school buildings in the district. Proposals include a potential new high school to alleviate growth at Conroe High School; new ninth-grade and elementary school campuses for Caney Creek feeder zones; a seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade campus in the Grand Oaks High School feeder zone; and a new junior high in the Conroe feeder zone.
CISD Director of Communications Sarah Blakelock reported the 160-member committee voted 98% in favor of calling a bond in 2023. Prior Community Impact reporting stated the 67 schools at CISD are operating at an average capacity of 102% with projections indicating it could grow from 71,000 to students to 100,000 students or more by the year 2033.
Board President Skeeter Hubert said the district needs to prepare for that growth.
“The students are coming,” he said in an interview. “We need to be prepared for them. One of the concerns was that we have so many students at Bush Elementary that starting next year we will be putting portables where the playground is. That's detrimental to the school because kids need a place to go outside and play. We need to build the schools for these kids.”
Hubert said the 2019 bond referendum left off an important component—renovating aged schools in CISD. He said this year's bond will incorporate renovation and upkeep needs at older campuses.
“Some of our schools don't even have a gym,” he said. “On bad-weather days, there's nowhere for those kids to go, and we need to remedy that.”
At the workshop, board members heard a highlight for each of the previous meetings with reports on the bond process, school finances, school growth and potential to build new campuses across the school district. This meeting's main focus was on new campuses, Hubert said.
CISD Superintendent Curtis Null said the bond committee's main priority includes building two new high schools.
“At the very first meeting, we asked the [committee] what their priorities are,” he said during the workshop. “Their priorities were a high school in Conroe and a Caney Creek high school as well. They wanted two high schools in this plan. As you can see with our budget, and what we've talked about with financial capacity, our top end, or the ceiling, for a package is about $1.8 billion.”
Null said building two high schools would cost about $800 million.
“We tried to find a way to meet those needs, as well as meet the needs in the Grand Oaks feeder zone without eating up the entire budget,” he said. “What we brought forward was a solution to build the high school in Conroe a little bigger to accommodate up to 3,800 students and build a ninth-grade campus in Grand Oaks.”
The ninth-grade campus would be built on the CISD-owned land located on Hwy. 242, according to information at the meeting. Null said in a future bond referendum, the ninth-grade campus could be converted to a junior high or split into two separate buildings to host seventh-eighth grades and a ninth-grade campus. The shift will save $160 million in this year's bond package, he said.
After hearing the update, Hubert said he was encouraged by the reports to hear all members of the committee are being heard.
“The reports were great, but I wanted to make sure that everyone was being heard and all members were actively participating and asking questions,” he said. “Once I knew that the members are the ones driving this bond conversation, then I was able to really focus on the reports and needs. I'm thankful that the community is understanding of these needs and that the bond is the best, most efficient way to meet the concerns of our district.”
The bond committee will meet seven more times between March and May before the final meeting July 17.
The board of trustees has until Aug. 21 to put a bond on the ballot for the Nov. 7 election.
The next bond committee meeting will be March 9 at the Jett Center, 19043 David Memorial Drive, Shenandoah, starting at 5:30 p.m. Hubert said this meeting will begin discussion on safety, security, gymnasiums and playgrounds.
No action was taken at the workshop.