Some Killeen school board candidates believe a fifth high school is needed to address the overcrowding at the KISD’s public high schools.
Overcrowding issues have become a common theme among various campuses in Killeen Independent School District. The four public high schools in KISD each have more than 2,000 students, and only Killeen High School is under its original suggested capacity.
The trend of increasing student population is expected to continue in the 2017-18 school year. On Tuesday, district officials said they expect a 0.84 percent increase next school year, or an additional 369 students, which would put the district’s enrollment at about 44,200 students.
Since the start of the current school year, parents, board members, residents and district election candidates have offered a variety of solutions to the overcrowding issue.
District officials held discussions at a previous board meeting about KISD’s Career Center expansion plan that could cost the district nearly $40 million. This expansion plan has been suggested to meet the needs of current students attending the center but not to address the overcrowding issue districtwide.
KISD board President Terry Delano said spending a large amount of money on an expansion plan should be postponed and revisited at a later date because the district still needs to spend money on a fifth high school.
“It’s time to pump the brakes and look at a fifth high school; that solution could solve our overcrowding issues for years to come,” Delano said.
More high school students live in south Killeen and Harker Heights, and because of this trend, the district has taken steps to prepare for future students in those areas, officials said.
The district previously purchased property near Chaparral Road and Featherline Road, according to a KISD statement. This property could be the location of a possible high school. The site was selected because of the location between Ellison High School and Harker Heights School yet south of Stagecoach Road, officials said.
While a need for an additional high school continues to increase, the price to build the new school has given district officials cause to pause.
Building a new high school could cost upwards of $100 million, according to KISD Superintendent John Craft.
A new high school being built 55 miles south of Killeen comes with a price tag confirming Craft’s assessment.
Pflugerville school district spokesman Steve Scheffler said a high school being built there will cost $104 million. Weiss High School, which will open in the fall, is about 388,934 square feet and built to accommodate 2,500 students. The school is on budget and on time, Scheffler said.
Another option proposed in KISD was to turn the district’s Career Center — which already has more than 1,500 high school students — into the district’s fifth high school.
The issue was raised by KISD Board Member Corbett Lawler, who asked during a previous board meeting whether the Career Center, at 1320 Stagecoach Road, should be expanded and turned into a fifth high school instead of remaining a growing specialty campus.
KISD election candidates last week offered suggestions to address overcrowding at the four public high schools in KISD.
What the candidates think
“As a career and technology teacher, I can appreciate the Career Center. I have toured the Center and have been wowed by the students’ work as well as the technology housed on campus. However, the 160,000-square-feet campus is not being fully utilized with an enrollment of 1,640 students. The Center is not open to every student and many students with disabilities are prevented from attending.
“Copperas Cove High School offers CTE classes to students in the same building as core classes. Copperas Cove High School also offers certifications for its students in technology, health care, marketing, etc. I believe it’s fiscally more responsible to utilize the Career Center as a fifth high school before agreeing to spend $100 million on a new building as our economy and student population is dependent on Fort Hood. Again, see what other districts are doing before jumping in. We teach our students to research options; we should as well.”
“This is a two-part problem. We must address the problem for today’s students as well as future students. We need to look at things that are outside the way we have always done things — staggered school hours, moving students to ECHS and the career center, and other things to lighten the load. Simultaneously we need to plan ahead and start saving for a new school, built within 10 years that will be large enough to meet our growth for the next 20 years. We cannot build new schools that have portable buildings set up the next year!”
“I suggest that we not only build a new high school, but that we leverage the facilities we currently have and convert the Career Center into a technical high school. In its current capacity it is not being optimized to educate as many minds as it can in an efficient and effective manner. America ranks 14th in education amongst world powers, while countries such as Japan and S. Korea dominate the top 5. Tomorrow’s Education Now includes facilities that can physically and mentally accommodate our children today and tomorrow.”
“I have always favored the Career Center/Pathways campuses becoming the fifth high school. KISD is currently developing plans to add a cafeteria, agricultural barn, classroom space to the Career Center.
“This is really a difficult question which is more about changes in KISD. Will KISD student population continue to grow? If so, where? How do we manage closed schools? How will the likely change of KISD no longer being a highly impacted school district affect future funding?
“Texas Senate Bill 3 current purposes changes in funding with vouchers, which could take $110 billion away from public schools to charter or private schools. These schools have no accountability. The question is how will we manage these changes?”
“Although a fifth high school is part of KISD Strategic Facilities plan for 2019, at this time building a new high school would not be favorable due to the cost. I believe that there are other viable options.
“Expansion of the Career Center is one option since land is available and the number of students attending is increasing due to the fact that more students are wanting to enter the job force with certifications earned from attending the Career Center.
“Early College High School expansion is the second alternative to a fifth high school. It is located at the former Smith Middle School, where space is available for an increased number of students to attend. These are better options financially than building a fifth high school at this time.
“As a final option, scheduling alternatives could be looked at, to include a zero hour, which would be early morning. The district should look at these options in lieu of rezoning every few years, which causes parental concerns.”
“Based on the growth trajectory of our district, a fifth high school (or some may say sixth) seems inevitable. However, exploring opportunities such as expanding the Career Center and its class offerings, thereby making it available to a greater number of students, and continuing the growth of the Early College High School (our defacto fifth high school) and the great collaboration with Central Texas College that this offers, are initiatives that need to be vetted and pursued as appropriate, concurrent with the development of plans for a dedicated fifth school campus.
“Expanding the choices available to our students is a key response to our current growth.”
“Based on current data and student numbers, if the budget allows for the building of a new high school, the district should move forward with the project.
“The Career Center should continue to be utilized for vocational education. The district should seek ways to accommodate and modify the Career Center in order for all students to utilize the Center, especially those disadvantaged or with disabilities who otherwise might not have the means to gain training to become productive and independent as an adult.”