The Killeen school board Tuesday approved all but one ranking of construction management firms considered to oversee $337.5 million worth of bond construction projects and delegated authority to Superintendent John Craft to execute contracts with the highest ranked firms.
The district requested public proposals on the construction projects, which include the $171 million new high school, the sixth in the district, as well as the $75 million renovation of Killeen High School, the $41.5 million rebuilding of Pershing Park Elementary School — which will include the consolidation of Bellaire and Sugar Loaf elementary schools — and the $50 million consolidation of East Ward and West Ward elementary schools.
Killeen Independent School District requested the proposals on July 23 through public outreach on the district website and did not use a vendor list.
In response, a variety of construction management firms submitted bid proposals for the individual projects, all of which are being funded through the $426 million bond program approved by voters in May.
A committee comprised of district members from facility services, purchasing and educational leadership, alongside consultants from PBK and Huckabee consulting firms, gathered the proposals and ranked the companies based on factors like price, personnel, technical competence, company safety records and more.
For the construction of the district’s new high school as well as the renovation of Killeen High School, American Constructors, which is headquartered in Cedar Park, ranked first; for the consolidation of East Ward/West Ward elementary schools, Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, out of Austin, ranked first; and for the Pershing Park/Sugar Loaf/Bellaire elementary schools consolidation, Cloud Construction, locally based in Temple, ranked first.
The board considered the rankings and approved all except one: the first-place assessment of Bartlett Cocke for the East/West Ward elementary schools consolidation.
The motion to approve this ranking died in a split 3-3 vote, as some board members, including Minerva Trujillo, Susan Jones and Marvin Rainwater, disagreed and argued Cloud Construction, which was ranked second, should earn the contract.
Adam Rich, KISD executive director of facilities services, said the ranking committee had selected Bartlett Cocke General Contractors over Cloud Construction because Cloud is already executing construction on two bond projects with the district: Middle School No. 14 and Elementary School No. 35, which would be made three projects if the company were to earn the contract for the Pershing Park consolidation.
The board will have to reassess the motion to approve the ranking order at the next meeting Oct. 9 but has delegated authority to Craft to execute the contracts once the details have been negotiated by Rich and his team.
In other business, KISD officials discussed the district’s record-breaking enrollment this school year, with 44,970 students currently registered, according to a report given to the board Tuesday.
“We do anticipate exceeding just over 45,000 students by tomorrow morning,” said Craft. “We begin to balance, particularly at the elementary levels. We’ll use waivers ... but at the same time we’ll be cognizant and not overuse them.”
In response to potential overcrowding, the KISD board approved a proposed waiver request to the Texas Education Agency for larger elementary class sizes at the meeting.
The waiver request will ask permission from the state agency for 12 KISD elementary school campuses to have some classes with over the limit of 22 students enrolled.
The Texas Education Code mandates the ratio requirement of 22 students to every one teacher for all kindergarten through fourth grade classes.
As of Sept. 11, 17 classes ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade at these 12 elementary school campuses had enrollment surpluses and were recommended for the waiver, including: second grade at Alice Douse; first grade at Bellaire; third grade at Clarke; kindergarten at Harker Heights; kindergarten and fourth grade at Meadows; kindergarten at Peebles; kindergarten, third and fourth grades at Pershing Park; first grade at Reece’s Creek; second grade at Richard E. Cavazos; kindergarten at Saegert; first, second and fourth grades at Trimmer; and kindergarten at Venable Village.
Abbott said it’s not the first time the district has asked for this waiver.
“We get waivers every year. All of the fast-growing school districts do,” Abbott said in an email.
The district is also facing overcrowding at the secondary school level, according to Abbott.
He said that collectively, the high schools are hundreds of students over capacity and using portable trailer classrooms as a result.
Current enrollment numbers at all four of the district’s traditional high schools have surpassed capacity.
As of Sept. 7, Harker Heights High School enrollment was at 2,532 students, approximately 521 over capacity; Ellison High School was at 2,631 students, roughly 452 over capacity; Shoemaker high school was at 2,203, or 192 students over capacity; and Killeen High School enrollment was at 2,298 students, 23 students over capacity.
Alleviation of that secondary school overcrowding will come as a result of the new high school, slated to be open in 2020 with a capacity to hold 2,500 students, according to Abbott.
Board members also discussed appointment of a public official to fill Carlyle Walton’s seat, first in closed session at the Tuesday meeting.
Walton resigned July 22 with over a year left on his term, which was set to expire in May 2020.
Per the state education code, the school board has 180 days from the time of the resignation to find a replacement.
Since the time frame to call a special election has passed, the board must now appoint an interim trustee to serve until the next election in May 2019.
The board has yet to release any public information about the process for selecting someone or discuss the matter in open session since Aug. 14, despite the approaching deadline of Jan. 18, 2019.
The board was still in closed session discussing the topic at press time Tuesday.