The Gladewater Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to call a bond election to be held May 10, 2014. The election, totaling $35 million, includes the construction of an entirely new Gladewater Middle School as well as additions and renovations to the existing Weldon Intermediate School in order to make it a grade 2–5 campus.
Currently, Weldon Intermediate School serves grades 4 and 5 and Broadway Elementary School serves grades 2 and 3. The district is proposing to remove students from the Broadway Elementary campus and add them to the existing Weldon Intermediate campus in order to address an aging and inefficient campus and safety concerns for grades 2 and 3. In addition, constructing a new middle school will address an aging campus with many deficiencies for grades 6 through 8.
This bond package was developed by a citizens’ bond steering committee consisting of local citizens, business leaders, parents and school staff. The committee met, studied the district’s current educational facilities and worked to develop a bond package.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a bond?
A bond is similar to a home mortgage. It is a contract to repay borrowed money with a low-cost interest rate over time. Bonds are sold by a school district to competing lenders to raise funds to pay for the costs of construction, renovations and equipment. Most school districts in Texas utilize bonds to finance renovations and new facilities.
How can bond funds be used?
Bond funds can be used to pay for new buildings, additions and renovations to existing facilities, land acquisition, technology infrastructure and equipment for new or existing buildings and large ticket items such as school buses. Bonds cannot be used for salaries or operating costs such as utility bills, supplies, building maintenance, fuel and insurance.
What is a bond election?
School districts are required by state law to ask voters for permission to sell bonds to investors in order to raise the capital dollars required to renovate existing buildings or build a new school. Essentially, it’s permission to take out a loan to build and renovate and pay that loan back over an extended period of time, much like a family takes out a mortgage loan for their home. A school board calls a bond election so that voters can decide whether or not they want to pay for proposed facility projects.
Exactly how much is the district asking for?
The Board of Trustees called a bond election in the amount of $35 million to be brought before voters on May 10, 2014.
How was the bond package developed?
The Gladewater ISD bond proposal is the result of a year-long district planning process and based on recommendations from a Bond Steering Committee, which represented a cross section of the community, including local citizens, business leaders, parents and school staff. The Committee worked together in December and January to tour each GISD campus, review GISD facility needs, project options and cost, survey results and financial information. Upon completion of their analysis, they worked to come to a unanimous recommendation for consideration by the Board of Trustees. The recommendations were presented to the Board on February 17, 2014 and the Board voted to call the bond election.
What does the proposed bond election address?
The district is proposing to remove students from the Broadway Elementary campus and add them to the existing Weldon Intermediate campus in order to address an aging and inefficient campus and safety concerns for grades 2 and 3. In addition, constructing a new middle school will address an aging campus with many deficiencies for grades 6 through 8.
Who is eligible to vote in this election?
Any registered voter that resides within the school district boundaries.
Can I still register to vote in the election?
Yes, the deadline for voter registration is April 10. If you are not registered to vote by this deadline, then you are not eligible to vote in this election. You can pick up a registration card from your local post office or you can register online.
After I have registered, when will I receive my Voter Registration Certificate?
You should receive a Voter Registration Certificate within 30 days. On Election Day, please bring your certificate to your local polling place if you have it. However, all that is required is a valid photo I.D.
What does the district plan to do with the existing Broadway Elementary School and Gladewater Middle School buildings once they are no longer housing students?
Currently, there are no monies designated for demolition of the facilities and it is the plan of the district to pursue all other options prior to making that decision. It is the goal of the district to have all of its support services in one centralized location. Currently, departments are spread in multiple locations throughout the district. One centralized location would create greater operational efficiency and cost savings. The district plans to investigate whether one of these facilities would be suitable for that purpose. Upon completion of that evaluation, the district plans to pursue other opportunities for use of whichever campus is not used for district purposes. The facility could be sold or donated to an organization, company, city or church.
Where will youth baseball play if the district builds the new middle school over the existing fields?
The district currently leases the existing youth baseball fields to the City of Gladewater. The district is in conversation with the city to look at other options. It is the plan of the district to explore the option of providing the existing middle school site fields and old bear stadium as a possible future location for the city youth baseball fields.
If the district is combining Broadway and Weldon, will staff and administrative positions be eliminated?
The district will evaluate all positions during the transition process. However, due to the large amount of students being housed on one campus, it is currently the district's plan to maintain existing Broadway administration and staff at the new location.
Why was it decided to build a new middle school instead of renovate the existing school?
The option to renovate the existing middle school was studied by the architect and the school district. The cost to add onto and renovate the existing middle school to address all issues and make it equivalent to a new grade 6–8 campus would cost approximately $20,737,000. The general construction rule-of-thumb is if the cost to renovate is 65 percent or more of the cost to build new, then you build new. In this case, the cost to renovate is 76.5 percent of the cost to build a brand new facility. After touring the existing conditions of the middle school, which was originally built in 1932, and reviewing the cost analysis, the Bond Steering Committee decided it was in the best financial interest of the district to construct a new middle school instead of renovating the existing one.
Has there been any consideration of changing the name of Weldon Intermediate School or carrying on the names at Gladewater Middle School, namely Richard Fenton Gymnasium?
There has been no decisions on any naming changes in the district. It will be the goal of the district for existing names to continue to be prominent in GISD in order to maintain the history and legacy of those that they are named after. The district will involve the Fenton family in any decision and would be happy to honor their wishes as to how they would prefer their name to be displayed.
Has the Texas Historical Commission been contacted about a second opinion on how to retrofit, preserve, reconstruct, and renovate the Middle School for possible efficient use of the building?
Currently, Gladewater Middle School is not on the database as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark or listed as a State Archeological Landmark and the school district is not under any obligation to contact the Texas Historical Commission. However, as the answer to Question 17 states, the option to renovate the existing middle school was studied by the architect and the school district. The cost to add onto and renovate the existing middle school to address all issues and make it equivalent to a new grade 6–8 campus would cost approximately $20,737,000. The general construction rule-of-thumb is if the cost to renovate is 65 percent or more of the cost to build new, then you build new. In this case, the cost to renovate is 76.5 percent of the cost to build a brand new facility. After touring the existing conditions of the middle school, which was originally built in 1932, and reviewing the cost analysis, the Bond Steering Committee decided it was in the best financial interest of the district to construct a new middle school instead of renovating the existing one.
In 2007, the school district had a facility assessment conducted by the Texas Association of School Administrators. In its report on Gladewater Middle School, the assessment stated, “This facility should be phased out of use as soon as possible and the program relocated to a suitable middle school facility. This is the district’s highest priority need. The complex, as it exists, has very little reasonable long-term use for the district. It is possible that other governmental agencies might have use for the buildings and campus. However, even low-occupancy uses, other than on a temporary basis, will require a significant financial investment to address the accumulated needs and provide adequate handicapped access." The report details many deficiencies with the existing facility, including structural settling. Read the full report here.
The option to renovate the building, when considered, would not have adversely affected its historic character in any way. The district and architect studied options to complete internal renovations that would not have changed the exterior. Any additions would have been done in a way that was acceptable to historic preservation practitioners or governing bodies. Therefore, contacting the THC for a second opinion was not necessary as part of the evaluation.
There have been no decisions as to what to do with the existing middle school once it is no longer in instructional use. The district is exploring options, and will consider contacting the Texas Historical Commission for their expertise and input. If the facility is nominated to receive a historical designation and that nomination is recognized at the local or state level, then there will be limits placed upon what the school can do with the building. The building would still be owned and maintained by the school district, but would be under the jurisdiction of THC that would then have the authority to decide what can and cannot be done to the building, not the School Board.
20. Why are children being moved from Broadway Elementary if there are no structural problems with this building?
It was the recommendation of the Bond Steering Committee and the decision of the School Board to propose to move children from this campus because of many building deficiencies and educational inadequacies. Issues with the existing facility include water infiltration issues, air quality issues, limited site size, safety concerns with the location adjacent to railroad tracks and its insufficient electrical system capacity. All existing rooms in the oldest portion are undersized per the Texas Education Agency, and there is no elevator and no accessible entrance to the building. The exterior walls are not insulated; the windows do not function properly and are not insulated; there is asbestos issues; there are no sprinklers; and the building infrastructure is largely original to the original construction date of the building. These are not unsolvable issues, but require a great deal of dollars to address or renovate these items to meet current code and standards. The 2007 assessment also recommended the building to be taken out of service as soon as possible. The study revealed, "This school is judged to be both educationally and economically obsolete, and it should be taken out of service for the regular instructional program as soon as possible. It may have some long-term function as a reduced occupancy facility, such as a central administrative office or as an alternative education facility (AEP and DAEP), but it will need some substantial upgrading of services and access if it is to be used for any long-term purpose."
Can we see drawings of the proposed plans and a picture of the project?
At this time, there are no drawings, plans or renderings of the proposed projects. The design process begins once the bond election is successful. Cost has been developed based on the program of spaces (what is to be included in the building), square footages, evaluation of the site and a quality of materials, but the actual design has not yet occurred. The proposed location for the new middle school is at the site of the existing Weldon Intermediate School, flanked by S. Loop 485, S. Roden Lane, E. Saunders Street and Coach Cooksey Street.
It has been determined that the site is large enough for the school and its associated infrastructure (drives, utilities, etc.). However, at this time, it is premature to determine exactly where on the site the building should be placed. In order to successfully address site planning, the architect will need to receive an accurate site survey indicating topography, easements, utility service points, etc. The funds to pay for these surveys and reports, as well as the design of the buildings, are included in the proposed bond amount. Therefore, they will not be completed until after the bond election, should it be approved by voters. Project design and plans will be available to the public at that time.
What was the cost of the original middle school? Were there any other bids obtained as far as building a new middle school? Was there one architect consulted? How many other evaluations were obtained? The cost per student for the new middle school would be $60k. Where did that number come from?
The original middle school was constructed in 1932. Due to the age, the district does not have record of original costs.
There have been no bids to build the new middle school at this time. Should the bond election be successful on May 10, the design phase would begin. Then, once the architectural drawings and plans are completed, the project will be competitively bid to multiple contractors to assure that the district is getting the best value.
Gladewater ISD, being a public entity, is subject to hiring architects and engineers based on qualifications of the firm, not by fees or cost. The district went through a formal Request for Qualifications and interview process to select an architect. The district selected Huckabee & Associates based on their qualifications to design and deliver quality K–12 public school facilities, which they have done so for many other school districts in and around east Texas.
Huckabee reviewed our existing facility assessments previously completed by outside parties, studied our existing facility conditions, interviewed district administration and staff, and assisted the district in planning for this bond election.
Huckabee has provided the district with cost estimates for the Bond Steering Committee to study and make their recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The estimated construction cost for the new middle school is $190 per square foot, which is based on the program of spaces (what is to be included in the building), level of quality and material types, evaluation of the site, and similar projects that have bid recently in the area. In addition to this raw construction cost, the total middle school bond amount amount of $27,075,000, also includes escalation to account for rise in construction costs between now and when the project actually bids, contingency, fees, permits, surveying costs, furniture, fixtures and equipment. Therefore, it is not appropriate to look at that number at a cost per student basis. It is what we consider a turn-key project cost to get the school up and running.
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