On March 4, Tomball ISD’s board of trustees discussed the progress of the $42.3 million Tomball Innovation Center project, hearing a presentation from a project geologist for Houston engineering firm Terracon addressing student safety concerns expressed by parents.

What the experts say

Terracon project geologist Evan Sitler said that industry standards were followed by TISD and Terracon for the TIC project.

“I know that there's some concern that it appears that the district hasn't reached out to us regarding a soil management plan, and just wanted to clarify that, at this stage, it's not something ... that anyone needs to rush to do, and we have been in discussions on that recommendation,” Sitler said.

Sitler also said, from an environmental standpoint, he wouldn’t have a problem with his own children attending a school on the TIC’s property.

“Based on our investigation, which was pretty extensive, we did not find any indicators of hazardous materials having impacted soils and groundwater or sediments,” Sitler said.

According to parents

Multiple TISD parents voiced concerns about the TIC project at the meeting, including that proper soil testing and plans have not been completed since the land was owned by industrial companies.

TISD parent Megan Ruffin said she knows the board and administration care about students and the community, but she believes there are “significant shortcomings” for the TIC project.

“The TIC situation ... could have been disastrous: a $39.5 million general fund purchase was approved without having the full final Terracon Phase 1 report in hand,” Ruffin said. “We can't overlook the deficiencies that hinder TIC's effectiveness and open the district up to risk and liability, which erodes trust with the community and could waste taxpayer money.”

Zooming out

As part of a TISD staff presentation on the progress of 2021 bond projects, in-depth information was given about the progress of the TIC, which houses Tomball Star Academy and the TISD agricultural center. The TIC is part of the district’s $494.46 million bond package approved by voters in November 2021. According to meeting presentation materials, the project:
  • In progress and is expected to be completed in August
  • Spans 70.45 acres, located at 11211 FM 2920, Tomball
  • Has a construction start date of April 2022
The TIC site was formerly owned by BJ Services and was purchased in 2021 by the district for about $39.5 million using bond funds, Community Impact previously reported. Other owners of the site included Titan Services Inc. and Baker Hughes, according to Terracon’s presentation materials.