WEST COLUMBIA — Columbia-Brazoria ISD could call for a bond election for the November ballot, depending on a facility planning group’s recommendation.
A group of C-BISD staff, parents and community members met for the first time Tuesday evening to discuss district needs and options for expanding West Brazos Junior High to encompass sixth graders, who currently attend the district’s elementary schools. About 15 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, and more are expected at the next meeting later this month, officials said.
During community meetings before the C-BISD Board of Trustees decided to realign the grades among elementary schools, many parents said they’d like to have the sixth grade moved away from the elementary schools, Superintendent Steven Galloway said.
Adding on to the junior high to accommodate sixth graders could also ensure C-BISD has enough room for students with expected growth to come for the next decade since there would be more open space at the elementary schools, Galloway said.
The board decided to realign all pre-schoolers students to Wild Peach Elementary, leaving kindergarten through sixth grade at West Columbia Elementary, then send the remaining kindergarten and first-grade students at Wild Peach and second- through sixth-grade students to Barrow Elementary at a March meeting. The change will begin next school year.
This decision had little to do with overcrowding, Galloway said, and much more to do with putting more tools in teachers’ tool belts. Combining the teachers per grade level at Barrow and Wild Peach means they have more resources, he said.
Since parents expressed interest about moving sixth grade away from elementary schools, architects laid out some designs to make that a reality, Galloway said. The bare-bones construction cost estimates range from about $5 million to upwards of $7 million.
So far, trustees are in favor of the “option two” that would add a sixth-grade wing, rather than both adding a sixth-grade wing and expanding the seventh- and eighth-grade wing or adding a standalone sixth-grade building with its own cafeteria, library and other facilities, Galloway said.
The sixth-grade wing addition is estimated at a little more than $5 million, making it the most cost-efficient, and construction wouldn’t interrupt the instructional day, he said.
“Everyone who has sat down and looked at the three said option two is the way to go,” Galloway said.
The construction would be a major component of the potential bond, but the facilities group will also have the chance to examine other district needs. This could include practice fields for West Brazos Junior High and air conditioning for the weight room at Columbia High School, but it doesn’t have to include either of those, Galloway said.
“It’s just what the community wants,” Galloway told the group Tuesday evening. “What would you like to see fixed or added? And I think the board wants to know that.”
All of the projects estimates so far have brought a potential bond number to less than $10 million, he said.
Samco Capital Markets Inc., the district’s financial advisor for bond matters, estimated that the tax rate would increase by 5 cents per $100 of home value for each $10 million issued, C-BISD Business Services Director Jason Tracy said. That would be an extra $50 of property taxes a year for a house valued at $100.
The district’s current tax rate is $1.2695 and they operated at a budget of about $30 million, according to a fact sheet from the meeting.
Samco also looks at refinancing the district’s older bonds, which staff plans to look into, Tracy said.
The next facility meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 21 at the administration building, 520 S. 16th St., West Columbia. The board would have to call a bond election by August for it to be on the November ballot, Galloway said.