Magnolia ISD preps for November bond election

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For the first time in just over a decade, the Magnolia ISD board of trustees announced and approved plans May 18 for a $92 million bond election to be held in November with no proposed tax rate increase.

The bond referendum is proposed to fund the construction of a new fifth- and sixth-grade campus, the conversion of the Bear Branch 6th Grade Campus into a fifth- and sixth-grade school and land purchases for future schools in the coming years. The bond package will also fund renovations and additions at several campuses as well as districtwide priority maintenance projects and security upgrades.

“Since it’s been 10 years since our last bond, we felt it was important to add priority maintenance [projects] as a genre,” said Kelly McDonald, Facility Planning Committee member and parent of two MISD students.

In January, the district organized a Facility Planning Committee consisting of 38 community members and at least one parent representative from each of the 14 MISD schools. Over the past few months, committee members conducted research, reviewed enrollment projections and toured schools to determine a possible need for a bond election to support district improvements, MISD Superintendent Todd Stephens said.

“I’m proud to report that group of about 40 members have worked diligently for several months,” Stephens said. “They worked hard, and I’m very excited for this [bond] proposal.”

Accommodating enrollment surge

A total of eight parent committee members presented the group’s findings to the school board during the May 18 meeting.

“Our district is fortunate enough to be positioned in an area with rapid growth,” said Rachel Anderson, committee member and parent of two MISD students. “The notion is to take a closer look at how our current facilities are meeting the needs of our students and what changes need to be made to meet the needs of our students in the future.”

After reviewing enrollment projections, the committee noted the Magnolia area is poised to continue seeing a surge in population growth in the next decade, said Henry Hart, committee member and parent of two MISD students.

“As we can all see when we drive around Magnolia, there are several new housing developments under construction as well as tens of thousands of additional homes coming in the next few years,” Hart said. “These developers are building homes all over the district, and this growth will impact every single elementary school in the district.”

With conservative growth models, Lyon Elementary, Magnolia Elementary and Magnolia Junior High are expected to reach 85 percent capacity during the 2015-16 school year, Hart said.

By 2018, Lyon Elementary, Magnolia Elementary and Smith Elementary are expected to reach an over capacity level, Hart said. Students will likely experience a deteriorated learning environment and safety issues with an increased population in many of the district’s schools, he said.

“Our district is fortunate enough to be positioned in an area with rapid growth. The notion is to take a closer look at how our current facilities are meeting the needs of our students and what changes need to be made to meet the needs of our students in the future.” —Rachel Anderson, committee member and parent of two MISD students

“At that time, we’ll have half of the students in the district who are not in high school learning in an overcrowded classroom, including both sixth-grade campuses and both junior high campuses in just a few years,” Hart said. “We need to act now to avoid that situation.”

After mulling over a few options, the committee determined the best option to manage growth with no rezoning for MISD schools. The bond proposal designates funding to open a new fifth- and sixth-grade campus and combine fifth- and sixth-graders at the existing Bear Branch 6th Grade Campus, said Kara Isam, committee member and parent of three MISD students.

The combined learning environment will allow teachers to craft more consistent and purposeful curriculum to cater to the intellectual and maturity levels of fifth-grade students as opposed to placing them in an elementary-age group, said Kirsten Coleman, committee member and parent of an MISD student.

“During our [committee] discussions, it was unanimously agreed upon that building new elementaries and rezoning would be difficult on our children and most parents as well,” Isam said.

Aging facilities

Another aspect the committee researched is the age of various facilities in the district and the need for renovations and new additions, said Ronnie Riley, committee member and parent of five students who have attended MISD schools over the past 20 years.

The Magnolia 6th Grade Campus is one of the oldest facilities in the district that was constructed in 1937, and Williams Elementary contains a building still in use that dates back to 1939. In addition, a portion of Magnolia Junior High School is 37 years old, and the Bear Branch 6th Grade Campus is 32 years old.

“Our educational experience in Magnolia ISD has been overwhelmingly positive,” Riley said. “However, many of our aging campuses face serious needs and are not prepared for continued growth.”

From 1994 to 2004, the district placed seven bond elections on the ballot for voters, which included the construction of three elementary schools, Bear Branch Junior High, Magnolia West High School and other school renovations. Four of the bond referendums were approved by voters during the same timeframe, and another three were turned down from late 1997 to mid-1998.

The MISD $92 million bond proposal is as follows:
Construction of a new Magnolia fifth- and sixth-grade campus: $30 million
Converting the existing Bear Branch 6th Grade Campus into a new fifth- and sixth-grade campus: $24.5 million
Land for future school sites: $6 million

Existing facility renovations and additions
Renovations to Magnolia Junior High: $5 million (commons area, classrooms, restrooms, athletic locker rooms and more)
Renovations to Bear Branch Junior High: $5 million (new band hall, renovate athletic lock rooms, reconfigure the entrance and more)
Additions to Williams Elementary: $2.5 million (new cafeteria and kitchen, library addition and new gym floorboards)
Renovations and additions to Magnolia Elementary: $2 million (library addition and classroom renovation)

Priority maintenance
Various maintenance projects on all campuses: $7 million
Purchasing of 10 new school buses: $1 million
Security: $500,000 (purchasing districtwide video security cameras at every school entrance as well as car and bus rider areas)
Technology fiber loop: $500,000

Two additional bond referendums for voter consideration:
Option 1—District conference center: $6 million
The project consists of a 20,000-square-foot facility serving both sides of the district to be used for school banquets, teacher meetings and community functions, commercial kitchen and accommodate 1,000 people.

Option 2—Adding turf to the district’s two high school football fields: $2 million

For more details on the $92 million Magnolia ISD bond referendum, read the June Tomball/Magnolia edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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