Construction is underway on two new elementary schools in Alvin ISD. The schools represent two of the 13 projects in AISD’s $245 million bond referendum approved by voters in November 2015.

Students will start attending the two new schools in the 2017-18 school year, said Daniel Combs, the district’s assistant superintendent of professional learning and student and community engagement. The schools will help accommodate the district’s most recent growth spurt, which is evident in 2016-17’s enrollment numbers—a 1,550 student increase from the end of the 2015-16 school year.

“Our district is seeing the fruits of the Houston market having such a strong economy, and it is driving growth of many residential developments within the district,” he said. “We have been a fast-growing district for years, but the rate of which we are increasing students is only going to increase—we average between 1,000-1,300 new students each calendar year.”

New school construction

Alvin ISD makes progress on new schools, facilities Alvin ISD makes progress on new schools, facilities[/caption]

Five new schools were included in the 2015 bond—four elementary schools and one junior high school. The new schools will help the district handle its surging growth as well as overcrowding at existing schools, Combs said.

Gamma Construction crews broke ground on Elementary School No. 17, Shirley Dill Brothers Elementary School, on June 2. If weather permits, construction should be completed in May 2017.

Elementary School No. 18, which has yet to be named, is also under construction with an estimated completion date of June 2017.

Elementary School No. 19 is a rebuild of the existing Alvin Elementary School at 1910 Rosharon Road, Alvin, and it will be named Betty K. Nelson Elementary School. Construction is slated to start in fall 2017 at a location that has yet to be determined. The former Alvin Elementary site will be transitioned into a facility to support the district’s shipping and receiving needs, Combs said.

A specific location and timeline for Elementary School No. 20 have yet to be determined, but Combs said both will be dependent upon which areas of the district experience population increase and overcrowding at nearby schools.

As new schools are constructed, Combs said, district officials are keeping an eye on its aging facilities to make sure they remain comparable. Annual maintenance and operations budgets allow for the older schools to keep up with current technology and materials.

“We strive to make sure there is equity in the programs across Alvin ISD, so regardless of which campus students attend they have access to top-quality education and extracurricular programs,” he said.

Lastly, Junior High School No. 7 should begin construction later this year. The new schools will be equipped with the latest technology, but Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Allen Roberts said they are built with flexibility in mind for future growth.

“Technology changes so quickly, and so to spend our community’s money wisely we create a learning environment that we don’t have to come back and necessarily change every few years, but we are able to adapt and adjust to those situations,” he said.

Keeping costs low

Alvin ISD makes progress on new schools, facilities Alvin ISD makes progress on new schools, facilities[/caption]

In terms of construction costs, Combs said the district aims to keep each schools’ final budget low, and more often than not the totals are less than the original estimated amount. For Shirley Dill Brothers Elementary, the cost presented to the public was $24.5 million, and the actual amount awarded to contractors came to $17.6 million. For Elementary No. 18, the estimated cost was $27.7 million and the actual came to $16.3 million.

“We want to basically under promise and over produce, and we want to deliver every project on time and under budget, so when we share a figure associated with a possible tax impact of a bond election, we do that from a worst-case scenario,” Combs said.

By reusing facility designs and consulting its team in the Building Programs Department, which has expertise in the conceptualizing and oversight of the construction process, the district is able to keep its final costs low, he said.

During the 2015 bond election, district officials anticipated an 8.3 cent increase to the property tax rate, but the actual increase was 3.3 cents for the 2016-17 school year, Combs said.

CTE building

The 2015 bond also includes funds to complete construction of the district’s Career and Technical Education Building. Phase 1 of the project was completed in fall using funds from the $212.4 million 2013 bond referendum, which allowed the district to construct a centralized CTE facility, the J.B. Hensler Career and Technical Education Center, at the site of the original Manvel Junior High School.

Phase 2, now funded by the 2015 bond, will expand the facility to 135,000 square feet and initially accommodate about 800 students from the district’s high schools with the option of future expansion. It will offer more programs in areas, such as veterinary science, health science, culinary arts, criminal justice and construction management. There is no construction timeline yet.