BULLARD – Exploding growth in the Bullard community has caused a large influx of students into Bullard ISD.
The school board is putting before voters a $40 million bond proposition on May 9 to address needs for new facilities, renovations and programs caused by the increase in enrollment that the district has already experienced and projected growth in the future.
Bullard ISD is considered one of the fastest growing districts in the state and the fastest growing district in the Tyler area. Statistics show enrollment spurted an average 4.5 percent every year for the last 15 years, jumping from 1,300 to about 2,500 students currently, almost doubling in size.
Never has enrollment leveled or declined during that period, Superintendent Todd Schneider said.
"It's an astonishing growth rate," said Roger Johnson, spokesperson for a citizens committee that recommended the school board call the bond election to meet needs resulting from growth in the Bullard community and school district.
If that growth rate continues, the superintendent expects enrollment will reach approximately 4,000 in eight to 12 years. When enrollment reaches 3,500 to 3,800 students, the district would have to worry again about additions, he said.
"If you are able to secure eight to 12 years of your future in a fast growth district, you've done very, very well,' Schneider said.
The bond proposal would expand facilities to allow the district to grow by roughly 100 students in each grade level. "That's about 1,200 students worth of growth," Schneider said, besides providing for renovations and meeting program needs.
School Board President Tiffany Kirgan said, "The board feels like this bond proposal is one that will adequately provide for our needs for our students, our staff and our community well into the future."
Trustees did not work in a vacuum in developing the bond proposal, Ms. Kirgan said, but rather reached out to the community and spent many months working on the proposition in conjunction with community members, administrators, construction and financial professionals.
The district's first citizens committee was formed in about 2009. It went to each campus and listed needed improvements, many of which have been addressed, such as a traffic and road redesign.
Another citizens committee that was organized this past fall looked at four options and plans that the board was considering for addressing remaining needs.
That committee concluded that the district "absolutely needs space to accommodate growth" and that it can afford the bond proposal, the spokesman, Johnson, said.
The next step, Johnson said, is to form a community political action and information committee that will inform voters what the bond proposition entails, why it is needed and how the district will pay for the improvements.
"Once the community understands the need and our ability to afford it, our community will rally around our district," Johnson predicted.
Public information hearings are scheduled for March 26 at Bullard Intermediate School library, April 13 at the Middle School cafetorium and April 23 at the High School cafeteria, all beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Bullard Mayor Pam Frederick said, "I'm proud of our board, with the transition to a new superintendent, moving forward and doing what's best for our children and making sure that we're prepared and have the school facilities that we need for this growth."
She added, "I feel it (the bond proposal) is completely necessary. It doesn't look like (the growth) is going to slow down. People move to Bullard primarily because of a good school district and I don't think people move to Bullard to have their students in over-crowded classrooms or portable buildings. I think they expect quality facilities."
The school board president and mayor said the school board and city council would meet jointly in the near future to discuss upcoming growth and the bond proposal.
Sometimes city officials know of developments coming long before ground is broken and it would benefit the school district to be informed about them, Ms. Frederick said.
In addition to new subdivisions currently selling lots, Bullard ISD officials know of at least five more that have been platted that will bring in another 680 single family houses and duplexes and two more on the horizon.
If the bond proposition passes at the polls, the bond money would be spent at all levels of the district, affecting students in pre-kindergarten through high school, the superintendent said.
The bonds would increase property taxes $303 annually, or $25 monthly, on the average house in Bullard, valued at $166,482. The district's tax rate to pay off debt would increase 20 cents, going from 30 cents to 50 cents and raising the district's total tax rate from $1.47 per $100,000 valuation to $1.67.
The district plans to complete in 2016 all of the construction projects that would be financed by the bonds, the superintendent said. "If we don't have it done in that year, we will have to deal with temporary buildings for students," Schneider said.
All of the district's facilities are currently at or near capacity, he added.
With crowding imminent, the district is at the point of having to provide more classrooms, Schneider. The district wants to proceed with bond funding to add facilities and avoid providing temporary structures for classrooms, Schneider said.
Besides providing new classrooms and other facilities for the expanding enrollment, the bond would address some facilities that are old, outdated and have structural needs and safety issues or need renovations, Schneider said.
For example, the oldest building is the intermediate school built in 1920. Although a wing of classrooms was added in 2008, it still has instructional needs and code needs, the superintendent said.
Plans call for spending $7.6 million on the intermediate school for a new cafetorium, enclosing the campus, four new classrooms, renovate the existing cafeteria into a band hall, a new band rehearsal room, a music room and a special program room, plus upgrading the gymnasium.
About $4.2 million would be spent at the middle school to add eight classrooms including a science lab renovation of science classrooms and a storage area into a new vocational ag room, update electrical systems, renovate locker rooms, a new physical education/practice gym and renovations throughout the building.
The bond proposal would fund $9.2 million worth of improvements at the high school. Those would include eight classrooms including two science labs, a vocational ag addition (two classrooms and a workshop), band hall and storage, locker room additions and improvements, a dance/drill rehearsal studio, locker rooms, storage and office.
The bonds would fund $17.3 million for construction of a new first and second grade campus including a cafetorium and gymnasium next to the elementary school on land the district already owns. The first grade would be pulled from the primary campus and the second grade from the elementary campus to attend the new school.
About $1 million would be spent on the primary school to upgrade the campus including paint, flooring, storage, and electrical work, heating ventilation and air conditioning and plumbing.
The school board has hired the Tyler architectural firm of Eubanks, Harris, Roberts and Craig and retained WRL General Contractors of Flint as the construction manager at risk.