$74M bond proposal hinges on public’s perception of a school building

Photo courtesy Red Oak ISD.

RED OAK — At the middle of the social media discussion over the $74 million Red Oak School Bond is a 1,000 student school building. Tucked away at the end of Live Oak Road, it is being used for special events, training, and storage but not currently housing any students in its classrooms.

The Red Oak Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to approve a $74,085,000 bond referendum to be included in the May 2017 election. The proposition's leading expense is a second Red Oak Middle School and expanded Red Oak High School.

“Our district is growing. We are expecting our enrollment to grow to more than 8,700 students in the next 10 years, so we are trying to plan for that growth,” Board President Henry Lozano said.

The 1000 student "Building on Live Oak" was utilized for students when the December 2015 tornado damaged Shields Elementary. Since the building is not up to code, the District was granted an emergency waiver to temporarily accommodate student instruction. District assessments point to a $32 million pricetag to renovate the building, which includes $8 million in code compliance projects and meeting additional TEA standards for classrooms.

Opponents of the bond want to see the District put the empty school to work for students before building a new one. Proponents point to issues like traffic flow concerns and age of the building, as well as technology upgrades. At 30 years old, the school building has an expected lifespan of 50 years, although many school buildings in Texas are approaching 75-100 years of service (nearby Waxahachie Global High was built in 1918 and currently serves students as a STEM charter school). For some, spending $44 million for a new school on the West side of I-35 is more appealing than spending $32 million for the "Building on Live Oak."

The bond is funded by a 13 cent tax increase on the debt service rate up to 40 years, raising it from 37 cents to the state mandated tax cap of 50 cents [per $100 of valuation]. Residents who receive the 65 and older tax freeze won't experience the tax increase.

ROISD presentations assert that the District has plans to use the building as a 6th elementary school, but Red Oak resident Penny Story is very frustrated with the building sitting empty for almost a decade. "The District has been spending a ton of taxpayer money in maintenance and utility costs all these years. This building was designed to instruct students and is being underutilized.

In addition to a new middle school, the bond package includes:

-Expansion of Red Oak High School to add Career & Technology (CTE) classrooms
-Additional restrooms and new concession area at Goodloe Stadium
-Technology, furniture and upgrades ("Classroom Revolution")
-Parking, renovations, a fuel bay and fuel cover at the Transportation Center
-Renovated gym floor at Schupmann Elementary
-Roofing and fire suppression systems (reimbursement for work completed summer 2016)
-Exterior parking and lighting upgrades at Red Oak Middle School, bus facility and Education Service Center
-Upgraded safety and security features, including video surveillance, radio upgrades and access control
-Upgrades to fire, safety and security systems

Early voting began April 24 and ends May 2. Election Day is May 6. All voting times and locations can be seen at the Red Oak School District's website:

www.RedOakISD.org