By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
What started as a plan to replace an old school has become a powerful political statement from the Killeen school district.
District officials are telling whoever will listen that they plan to replace the 52-year-old Meadows Elementary School, whether they get help with funding or not.
The district had hoped to tap the federal government for a little help with the multimillion-dollar school replacement, but it looks like that help may not be there.
Meadows, built in 1953, was to be part of Fort Hood Schools. It opened its doors in the fall as a KISD campus, however, when the two school districts consolidated. Today, the nearly 700-student school is in need of major renovations.
That is a very, very old building and it doesnt meet the requirements for our current educational programs, said Dr. Jim Hawkins, superintendent of Killeen Independent School District.
District officials are confident that the piece of land next to the existing Meadows will be available for the site of the new school. A new school on that site could cost between $13 million and $16 million, depending on whether it is 800- or 1,000-student capacity.
Dr. Charles Patterson, KISD government liaison, has been working for roughly a year to secure federal funding for the Meadows project. He has said that it was renovations to post housing that caused the need for increased student capacity on post in the first place.
At a recent board workshop, Hawkins told trustees the hunt for funding help wasnt going well.
Were making no progress, he said, and the district has even less confidence than before that the government will help fund the new school. Hawkins said he couldnt even get a confirmation that area representatives were working on the issue.
Theyre saying no without saying no, he said.
Board members were fired up about the need to go ahead and get on board with the project, funding help or not.
Trustee Mike Helm was passionate about the district making a commitment to the school replacement and he was just as passionate about making sure that statement was heard loud and clear. He suggested a news release be sent to the Army Times to tell KISDs story.
We need to have that story told, and the sooner, the better, Helm said.
First, district officials want to make sure families on Fort Hood hear the message that a new school is on the way.
Were going to do the right thing for our children whether the federal government helps us or not and whether we have growth at Fort Hood or not, Hawkins said. The district is looking at other state and federal sources for financial assistance, he said.
But there seems to also be an intention for KISDs message to reach a larger audience. The districts staunch commitment to a new school on Fort Hood could even put a positive spin on any future BRAC decision, Hawkins said.
We hope thats viewed as unconditional support for military families, he said.
Trustee Dr. Scott Isdale said he wasnt behind the replacement as a political move, though. His support was based on pure need. Teachers have been calling him for the past couple of years to tell him about Meadows condition, he said.
The bottom line is, its the right thing to do, he said.
Contact Wendy Gragg at firstname.lastname@example.org