Q: Could you please list the key projects to be paid by the bond issue and describe why each is needed?
A: The Bond Steering Committee, a group of more than 40 parents and community members, took on the incredibly important responsibility of helping Killeen ISD review facilities needs and make recommendations to the school board for potential bond package projects to create better school facilities for Killeen ISD students. The committee used five grading criteria to prioritize potential projects and assign each project a score. The five criteria for scoring each potential project were the benefit to students, urgency of need, alignment with KISD mission, benefit to community and equity. The committee worked hard for more than a month to study the district’s facilities needs and then unanimously agreed that these school construction and renovation projects should be included in a $426 million bond program to be put before the voters in May 2018.
• District-wide security upgrades and renovations for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), $12 million – These bond monies will allow the district to upgrade existing facilities to assure they meet federal standards under the ADA, and also will allow the district to improve safety and security at schools with the installation of improved intercom systems, controlled access devices to secure school perimeter doors, install perimeter fencing and shade structures for outdoor play at elementary schools. Killeen ISD students deserve to go to school in safe, secure buildings that meet standards for accessibility.
• New high school, $171 million — In the 16 years since Killeen ISD’s last bond election for school construction, the district has grown by 13,711 students, nearly the size of the entire Waco school district, and is expected to grow by over 5,000 more students in the next 10 years. KISD schools are crowded to the point that the district has 290 portable classrooms, 95% of which are in use on campuses. Much of this growth is at the high school level. Killeen ISD students deserve top quality facilities that are not overcrowded. The district needs another high school to accommodate current and future projected enrollment growth. The district currently owns 67.50 acres on Chaparral Road west of East Trimmier Road, which is planned to be the site for the new high school.
• New school to consolidate East/West Ward Elementary School, $45 million – East Ward is 65 years old, and West Ward is 64 years old. They were built during the Korean War and are the two oldest schools in Killeen ISD. West Ward and East Ward students are badly in need of, and deserve, improved facilities. Rather than renovate both schools, the Bond Steering Committee recommended building one new school that would accommodate more than 1,000 students. West Ward Elementary could be repurposed for future district use. The new school would open in the fall of 2020. East Ward would be demolished and replaced with a new campus to open in the Fall of 2020. The anticipated return on investment is approximately 15 years as a result of future realized efficiencies.
• New Pershing Park Elementary School to consolidate enrollment of Sugar Loaf Elementary and part of the Bellaire Elementary School enrollment, $52 million – Pershing Park Elementary is 55 years old, Sugar Loaf is 52 and Bellaire is 51. All three need significant facilities improvements due to age. Rather than renovate all three schools, the Bond Steering Committee recommended building one new school that would accommodate the enrollments of Pershing Park and Sugar Loaf and part of Bellaire. The students at all three schools deserve better facilities. The new school would be constructed to accommodate more than 1,000 students, which would increase efficiencies. The new school would open in the fall of 2021.
• Elementary School #36, $45 million – The district needs another new elementary school to accommodate projected enrollment growth. The school would be expected to have a capacity of 1,050 in grades pre-kindergarten through five and would open in the fall of 2022. The district has not yet identified a property, district-owned or otherwise, to be used for Elementary School #36.
• Clifton Park Elementary renovation/Bellaire Elementary consolidation, $21 million – Clifton Park Elementary School is 53 years old and badly in need of improvements. Clifton Park students deserve a better facility. The proposal calls for renovation of building sections and expansion of classroom capacity with new construction to accommodate additional students from Bellaire Elementary. Older building sections would be demolished and replaced with new construction. All portable classrooms would be replaced with new classroom construction. The new facility would open in the fall of 2021.
• Killeen High School renovation, $80 million – Killeen High School is 53 years old and badly in need of upgrades and renovations. Bond issue funds would allow the district to renovate and update the existing campus, including structural improvements to south east-west hallway floor movement. The bond funds also would allow the district to expand and provide a separate entrance to the practice gym, and would provide other school-wide systems and cosmetic improvements. Killeen High students deserve better facilities as they learn in the district’s original high school. The project would be done in phases to minimize disruption and would be completed in the fall of 2021.
Q: Which is the most important of all of the proposed projects on the bond list? Why?
A: The Bond Steering Committee comprised of parents and community members voted the district-wide security upgrades and renovations for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as the number one priority followed closely by the construction of a new high school.
Q: How will the bond projects contribute to improving the quality of education in the district?
A: The bond program will provide students with higher quality facilities that maximize learning opportunities, safety, security, access and equity.
Q: Will construction projects be put up for bid? Why or why not?
A: Yes, the requirements outlined in board policy and state law regarding the procurement of construction related services will be adhered to.
Q: Will the architectural contract be put up for bid? Why or why not?
A: The district will utilize the architectural services provided by our pool of board-approved architects. That pool includes Huckabee. Parkhill Smith and Cooper, Stantec Architecture, Inc., PBK Architects, Pfluger Architects, and O’Connell Robertson.
Based on the qualifications of each firm and the scope of the project, administrative recommendations will accompany each project.
Q: Besides using portable classrooms, how will overcrowding be handled in the schools, especially the high schools, until the new schools are built and open?
A: In addition to portable buildings, the expansion of the Early College High School to include the senior class will help in the effort to alleviate overcrowding. The expansion of our STEM program in partnership with Central Texas College next year also will help.
Q: What was the urgency for moving up the bond issue to May 2018, after considering it for November 2018 or May 2019?
A: Killeen ISD board members discussed the need to consider a potential May 2018 bond election to meet the need for new and improved facilities for a growing student enrollment. In analyzing these needs and the ability to engage the community in the process, the district deemed a May 2018 bond feasible. This will allow the possibility of the construction process sooner thus alleviating some of the annual construction cost escalation.
Q: Who, exactly, first proposed the initial idea of the KISD bond issue, and when?
A: By the time the public may be asked to vote, it will have been 16 years since Killeen ISD had a bond issue for school construction. In that decade and a half, community members, parents and school officials have discussed facility needs and potential funding for those needs many times. The current proposed bond program was recommended by the Bond Steering Committee, the group of parents and community members who have been studying the facility needs of the district for the past month. That committee was formed after the elected representatives of the voters of Killeen ISD, the Board of Trustees, in public discussion with the superintendent of schools, talked about the possibility of a bond program to provide Killeen ISD students the better school facilities they deserve.
Q: In what year was the extent of high school growth anticipated? What would have been the ideal time to start planning funding for a new high school?
A: Killeen ISD studies enrollment growth and makes careful calculations of potential growth every year. It is an ongoing process as part of the district’s commitment to provide students the best education, every day. The district expects to need a new high school by 2022 and is planning accordingly in continuation of the daily focus on the needs of students.
Q: Who, exactly, made the decision to time the bond issue for May 2018, instead of November 2018 or later? When was the decision made?
A: No decision has yet been made on the timing of a bond issue. The responsibility for such a decision rests with the members of the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees. The board is expected to make the decision on whether to call a bond election for May 2018 in February. The Bond Steering Committee was established to consider facility needs and make recommendations to the board for a possible May 2018 bond election after discussion at a public board meeting in October regarding facility needs. As superintendent, I discussed with the board the idea of considering a May 2018 bond election instead of waiting until the following year because of the urgency of moving forward with a new high school and other facility needs to meet the needs of students during the expected continued increase in enrollment.
Q: Many in the community seemed surprised by the request for a bond issue. Is there any reason the concept had not been shared earlier?
A: The concept of a bond issue at Killeen ISD has been shared many times over the years. The concept of a potential bond issue has been discussed publicly at school board meetings for years. As an example, more than two years ago, on Oct. 13, 2015, a school board regular meeting agenda item on facilities needs stated “As a result, the updated Strategic Facilities Plan includes a comprehensive high school and/or additions to current high school facilities to be planned for completion by the 2020-2021 school year. This adjusted timeframe also entails a potential bond election in May of 2017.” (Emphasis added) The minutes from an Oct. 19, 2015 Board of Trustees workshop said the district’s chief financial officer noted that “a potential bond election (emphasis added) could be required to fund High School #5, Elementary School #35 and a stadium, if and when these projects are approved by the Board.” The scientifically valid survey of Killeen ISD voters conducted last month by an independent polling firm showed the district’s facility needs are certainly no surprise to the public. The survey showed 68% of respondents think the district needs more schools and classrooms to meet the needs of students over the next five to ten years. On behalf of the students at Killeen ISD, we greatly appreciate the public’s attention to this issue and the strong support of the proposed bond.
Q: Is the development of the 3,750-home Bell County Municipal Utility District No. 2 at Chaparral Road and Trimmier a factor in the district’s growth projections? If so, during which years will it be a factor.
A: The district is aware of this projected development; however, it has not been a driving factor for the consideration of a bond program. It is not known by the district when or if this development will come to fruition.
Q: What other fund-raising methods, besides bond issues, could be used?
A: There is no other feasible mechanism to generate funds necessary for the projects.
Q: How important to the KISD bond is the proposed Killeen city bond to fund road improvements near proposed KISD school sites?
A: The infrastructure improvements will be needed to support future school facilities along Chaparral. Any Killeen city bond would be a decision for the elected leaders of Killeen. Street improvements around school construction sites are always important, but the specifics of funding such projects are appropriately determined by the elected city leaders. We cannot speculate at this point on the extent to which a potential timeline for a 2022 opening of a high school might have to be altered based on the timing of road and other infrastructure improvements that will be necessary for the Chaparral site.
Q: What is your strategy for pitching the bond issue to the voters?
A: We will continue to provide information to the public about the proposed school construction and renovation program and answer questions from the public to try to help ensure the public receives the information it needs. Since the Bond Steering Committee was launched, we have held public meetings across the district that were well publicized and open to all members of the public. As part of those public meetings, we have made available on our website voluminous detailed information about the potential bond program and projects. We will continue to be open and transparent with our public about this important proposed program to provide our children the better school facilities they deserve.
Q: Will KISD schedule any public meetings at which questions and concerns about the bond issue could be addressed by the board and KISD officials?
A: KISD has held seven such public meetings in the past six weeks, including four Bond Steering Committee meetings, all of which were advertised as meetings of the school board, and three regular school board meetings and workshops. All seven meetings were advertised across Killeen ISD and all seven were open to the public. The public can offer comments and ask questions and receive answers about the proposed bond issue on the district’s website, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to the Dec. 12 school board meeting in which the bond program recommendations were made by the Bond Steering Committee, the board will meet in even more regularly scheduled public sessions in the coming weeks in which the public can comment on and be involved in the process leading up to a final decision by the board on whether and when to call the bond election.
Q: Who is directing, advising and handling marketing for the bond issue?
A: The work of providing information to the public about the bond program is led by the superintendent, the board and district communications office and other district officials. Support for the work has been and is being received from district officials and employees throughout the organization, and support also has been received from officials at Huckabee.
Q: How much money is being funded for marketing of the bond issue? Will taxpayers pay for it?
A: The district will be providing information through electronic communications and presentations. The district has not designated a budget to fund any type of additional promotional campaign, rather, will provide information to the public as warranted. Bond planning and community engagement is part of the support work Huckabee has provided for the process leading up to the board’s final decision in February on whether to call a bond election. That support work continues over the next several weeks leading up to the board’s decision.
Q: How do you tell all taxpayers, especially those in areas without projects, how they will benefit from the projects?
A: With the proposed new schools and renovations, including the safety and security upgrades and ADA access improvements, most areas of Killeen ISD will be involved in the bond program. Better schools and better instructional facilities benefit student learning enormously, and that benefits all taxpayers of Killeen ISD.
Q: Will KISD target civic and other organizations as part of the education effort toward passing the bond issue?
A: We will share information about this important effort to improve Killeen ISD schools for this generation of students and beyond with all community members, including community and civic leaders.
Q: What types of materials will be used in the educational effort on the bond issue?
A: Website, print and other available materials will continue to be used in communicating with the public about the proposed bond to make sure all members of the community have information about the proposal.
Q: While the predominant statement has been made about 1% growth in the student population, mention was also made of 1.5% growth. How will these numbers be presented to the public?
A: We will continue to use a very conservative 1% growth rate through the presentation of information to the public. Of noteworthy mention; our 10-year historical average growth has exceeded 1%.
Q: While a KISD-funded survey suggests there is support in the community for the bond, others have criticized the survey company for the questions and methods used to achieve the desired result. How do you address this?
A: The scientifically valid survey by an independent professional polling firm showed strong Killeen ISD voter support for a proposed bond issue, and we greatly appreciate that support. The survey was conducted in a professional manner using the same type of random, stratified sampling process that is used in surveys nationwide to gauge public opinion.
Q: Who, exactly, was involved in suggesting and compiling names and sending out the invitations to the prospective bond steering committee members?
A: As we’ve previously stated, I and other district leaders, including the members of the Board of Trustees, recommended potential members of the Bond Steering Committee. The parents and community members who agreed to serve on the Bond Steering Committee volunteered countless hours of their time as the holiday season approached to prepare recommendations for the board on this vitally important proposal to improve the education of the children of Killeen ISD. We greatly appreciate the members of the Bond Steering Committee for their diligence and commitment to the children of Killeen ISD.
Q: Who initially created the list of potential projects the bond steering committee later reviewed during its meetings?
A: This list was created as a result of the projects listed in the Strategic Facilities Plan for future growth and by assessing facility needs identified in our facilities assessment and the campuses which are more than 50 years old.
Q: The bond committee was presented with specific options with PowerPoint presentations during the bond steering committee meetings. Was any consideration given to seeking committee input or public opinion before the menu of proposed projects was drafted?
A: Yes, public input was indeed solicited and received. Much of the initial potential list of bond program projects was informed by the facilities assessment and needs plan that was developed three years ago, in 2014. There were multiple board meetings at which the facilities assessment was discussed and at which the public had opportunities to comment and make recommendations. Then, the Bond Steering Committee, more than 40 parents and community members, came together in a public meeting on Nov. 2, 2017 at Harker Heights High School and reviewed demographic data and facilities information and discussed and gave input on facilities needs. All this was done prior to Nov. 9, 2017, when a list of potential projects was considered by the Bond Steering Committee. Yes, substantial public input was solicited and received prior to the Bond Steering Committee beginning work on considering a potential projects list. The input of these parents and other Killeen ISD community members was vital in the development of top priorities for the proposed bond program. The entire process, from start to finish, was informed by this community input and we are very grateful to the public for its dedication to this work.