Katy ISD goes ahead with STEM center despite failed bond

Students in Katy ISD will soon have access to a science, technology, engineering and math center after the school board unanimously approved the project at its Dec. 16 meeting. The STEM center, estimated to cost $5 million, was originally part of the $99 million bond proposal that voters rejected in November. Instead of returning to the polls to request new funds, the board decided to fund the project through the district's 2013–14 general fund budget.

"The need for the S.T.E.M. Project Center adjacent to the Miller Career and Technology Center continues to exist to support student learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Katy ISD Superintendent Alton Frailey said. "New curriculum requirements and the increasing prominence of these fields in today's society reinforce the need for this facility."

In a Dec. 12th work session, the board revisited the idea of building the STEM center after auditors found an additional $4 million in the district's budget that was unallocated. That available money allowed planners to budget an additional $500,000 for the project—initially proposed at $4.5 million—that will pay for advanced instructional equipment for the facility.

The center, which could be open by the beginning of the 2014–15 school year, will provide space on a two-acre property just west of Miller Career and Technology Center off of Katyland Drive for students to construct larger projects and experiments, according to the proposal.

Frailey said in the lead-up to the bond election that the district as a whole has not done enough to facilitate innovation and creativity among its students but that the STEM project center would be a step in the right direction.

Each school in the district may ultimately have its own space within the building where students can house their own projects.

Similar spaces in other districts have been used to provide students with a place to build solar-powered cars, catapults, robots and other projects that allow them to apply what they learn in the classroom.

With the board's approval of the project, the design and construction process can continue.