Tomball ISD bond includes Woodlands schools

In response to a surge of growth in the northeast and southern regions of Tomball ISD, areas which include The Woodlands, the district called a bond election this month to pay for four new schools and renovations at all existing schools.

The $160 million bond, which will be voted on by district residents May 11, would help the district as its student population grows by 3,700 students in the next five years, according to district projections. There are currently 11,600 students in Tomball ISD, with 720 enrolled at Creekside Forest Elementary School and 288 enrolled at Timber Creek Elementary School. Both of those schools are located in the Village of Creekside Park in The Woodlands.

If the bond is approved, Timber Creek and Creekside Forest elementary schools would be renovated to move sixth grade from the campuses and alter the schools to be a K–5 instead. Under the proposal, two new schools are planned for The Woodlands: a K–5 elementary school and 6th–8th grade intermediate school.

The bond program includes two new schools, an elementary campus and an intermediate campus, in the southern area of the district.

"[The bond proposal is] a direct result of one thing: explosive growth," said Huey Kinchen, the district's deputy superintendent. "Where our growth is most prevalent is the northeast portion of our district and in the south. The whole Northpointe area is growing very rapidly. All three of those schools are rapidly approaching capacity. It's not a want, it's a need."

Tomball ISD is the fastest growing school district, based on percentage, among seven counties surrounding Houston, including Harris, Chambers, Galveston, Liberty, Waller, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties, Kinchen said. There are 51 public school districts in those counties.

"A lot of that is being driven by strong business growth," said Ken Odom, board member and chairman of a citizen's committee to advocate for the bond. "Exxon[Mobil] is moving into the northeast part of our district, and there's a lot of development in the south part of our district. The influx of population is really the core driver behind our bond."

The bond would also fund renovations at all of the district's 12 schools, including new technology, security upgrades and additional school buses, district officials said.

"Every school will benefit from the bond," Kinchen said.

Although Creekside Forest Elementary is the only school exceeding capacity this year, projections show Canyon Pointe Elementary and North Point Intermediate schools exceeding capacity in 2014, Willow Creek Elementary and Tomball Junior High School in 2015, and Timber Creek campuses in 2016.

The new schools, which would cost $110 million, would also include an elementary and intermediate school in the southern area of the district. The need for these schools is based on growth projections through the 2018–19 school year.

"We looked critically at the next five years," Kinchen said. "We need to be prepared to meet that growth."

The bond would provide money for renovation projects at Lakewood and Decker Prairie elementary schools to upgrade the front administration area and the cafeteria, as well as facility improvements district-wide, including upgrades to air conditioning, heating, lighting, roof replacement, paving and other electrical, and mechanical projects, district officials said.

In addition to the new schools, the district has set aside $30 million for additions and renovations to existing infrastructure and $28 million for improvements to transportation and technology.

Tomball ISD commissioned a 17-member Facility Planning Steering Committee last fall to look at possible improvements to accommodate the growth. The committee presented its findings at a public forum Jan. 28. The steering committee recommended the bond to the district's Board of Trustees, which unanimously approved the proposal.

"I have every confidence the money raised on this bond is absolutely needed," said Michael Pratt, a Tomball ISD school board member. "Your board is extremely conservative. I have all the confidence our communities will support it. I think our communities will recognize the growth issue."

The district would avoid going over a tax rate of 5 cents per $100 valuation on the bond, steering committee chairman Rick Pritchett said.

The average homeowner in the district, based on the average home cost of $100,000, would pay roughly $50 a year in added taxes. He also said the costs are all estimates at this point and may need to be adjusted after the design process.Additional reporting by Shawn Arrajj



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