Klein, Spring ISDs make progress on bond projects

Klein ISDu2019s fifth high school is slated to open in August on Spring Cypress Road.

Klein ISDu2019s fifth high school is slated to open in August on Spring Cypress Road.

Klein and Spring ISDs have recently made headway on projects from their approved bond packages, such as the opening of Klein ISD’s new high school in August and Spring ISD’s acquisition of 60 new school buses.

New schools make up the largest share of both districts’ bond packages. KISD is using money from its $498.1 million bond package approved by voters in 2015 to fund two elementary schools, one high school and one intermediate school, said Robert Robertson, KISD associate superintendent of facility and school services.

SISD is using money from a $330 million package approved by voters in 2016 to fund three new ninth-grade academies and two middle schools, SISD Chief Operations Officer Mark Miranda said.

Both districts cite current or potential overcrowding as the main factor necessitating the building projects. Miranda said the addition of the three ninth-grade centers will alleviate overcrowding at three high schools. Robertson said enrollment growth has spurred new construction in KISD.

“Our student growth has been around 1.5 or 2 percent a year, which is around 1,000 [students] each year,” Robertson said. “And we have to have a place to put them.”

Klein, Spring ISDs make progress on bond projectsKlein Cain High School

Klein Cain High School is the most significant project in KISD’s bond package. The campus cost $185 million, including construction, furniture and other expenses.

The new school will house students who previously would have attended Klein High School or Klein Oak High School. Robertson said each of those high schools has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students. Moving students to KCHS will provide both schools with much needed relief,  he said.

In its first year, about 1,450 students—all ninth- and tenth-graders—will attend KCHS, Robertson said. The school will introduce a third class of students in the 2018-19 school year and the remaining class in the 2019-20 school year. When all four grades are present, the school will hold close to 3,200 students.

KCHS Principal Nicole Patin said opening the school with only freshmen and sophomores will allow younger students to step into leadership roles that are normally occupied by upperclassmen. She also said this will allow teachers to provide students with more one-on-one attention.

“It’s really important for us here—especially this first year—to build relationships with our kids,” Patin said. “So, if we can actually figure out what our kids want, what makes them tick, what they are interested in—that is going to help us tailor our lessons to appeal to them.”

KCHS construction started in January 2015, a few months before the bond referendum was approved by voters. Robertson said money was allocated for the construction of KCHS in the district’s previous $646.9 million bond package—approved by voters in 2008—but the recession and a change in enrollment patterns caused the district to reallocate the funding and instead use it for elementary schools.

Robertson said construction had to begin in January 2015 for KCHS to open by the start of the 2017-18 academic year. The board of trustees approved using funds remaining from the district’s 2008 bond to start construction.

“We knew it was in the best interest of the community to get started early—it takes two and half years to build a new high school,” Robertson said.

KCHS contains approximately 200 classrooms, an auditorium, a natatorium, two practice gyms, a competition gym and eight spaces suited for cross-curricular lessons.

Robertson said this last feature defines what his team set out to accomplish when designing the school, which was to create a learning environment with an emphasis on collaboration and transparency.

“The most challenging part of building any new school is planning the educational spaces so that they are flexible enough to meet the needs of both current and future students,” KISD Superintendent Bret Champion said.

Klein, Spring ISDs make progress on bond projectsOther KISD projects

Work has begun on the two schools remaining from KISD’s 2015 bond package. Intermediate School No. 10 is slated to open in August 2018 and will cost $60 million to build, and Elementary School No. 33 is projected to open in August 2019 and will cost $26 million, Robertson said. Like KCHS, these two schools will also help the district alleviate congestion at other schools and allow room for growth.

When adding new schools and redrawing attendance boundaries, it is important to look at projected future enrollment growth, Robertson said.

“When we draw attendance boundaries, it’s not what is just happening now, it’s what is going to happen over the next 3-5 years,” Robertson said.

Robertson said the last piece of structural steel was put in place in July for Intermediate School No. 10, which stands at 8400 West Rayford Road, Spring. Elementary School No. 33 is at the intersection of Frassati Way and Spring Stuebner Road. The school is in the early design phase, Robertson said.

An issue every growing school district faces, Robertson said, is curbing the disparity between new and old schools. The district projects it will spend more than $100 million on capital renewal projects, which include school renovations and repairs, according to an outline of the district’s bond program. This updates schools built in the late 1970s and early 1980s to the current school building standards.

“This year at Brill Elementary School and Kaiser Elementary School, we are going through and removing demountable partitions, and we’re putting new walls in and putting glass view panels in where we can,” Robertson said.

Progress in SISD

Miranda said the three new SISD ninth-grade buildings opening in August 2020 will alleviate the number of students in Dekaney, Spring and Westfield high schools, which are all at maximum enrollment capacity. The ninth-grade academies will also help ease students’ transitions from middle school to high school, said Gary Hutton, SISD executive director of planning and construction.

“They are transitioning from being in eighth grade to high school,” Hutton said. “It helps them spend that one year where they are in high school, but they are in a group together.”

The three ninth-grade buildings are projected to cost a total of $112 million, while the two new middle schools­–Middle School No. 8 and a new building for Roberson Middle School–are projected to cost a total of $80 million to build. Roberson Middle School’s current building will be renovated and reopened as Westfield High School Ninth Grade Center.

In addition to the construction of new schools, Miranda said upgrading obsolete technology was a key aspect of SISD’s 2016 bond program. The district allocated $32 million to improve technology infrastructure, such as wireless Internet connectivity and creating new wireless access points throughout the district. The funds will also be used to update instructional devices, such as replacing all of the computer lab computers throughout the district and providing teachers with new laptops.

The majority of the technology projects will be completed before the school year starts Aug. 17—including the replacement of all computer lab computers—while some projects will be completed in late September. Miranda said teachers will receive new laptops by the end of 2017.

He said districts do not normally have set funding for these kinds of improvements, which makes bonds an efficient way to cover the expenses.

“We needed a shot in the arm in terms of refreshing both the infrastructure and classroom tech,” Miranda said.

In addition to the 60 school buses Spring ISD acquired this summer for $6 million, the district also recently purchased a new facility to house its police department and tax office for $2.6 million. The building is at 420 Lockhaven Drive and will allow the police department to nearly double its space from 8,000 square feet at its structure on North Forest Boulevard to 15,000 square feet in the new facility.

“It’s a really conducive facility to what we are looking for,” Miranda said. “We are going to have to go in and do some renovations, but we aren’t going to have to gut the building and do a ground-up renovation.”