TISD considering building three new schools with bond election

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email

Rice and Dixie Elementary Schools are the only two in Tyler that haven't been renovated or improved in recent years, but they could be in line for a complete overhaul.

During Thursday night's workshop meeting of the TISD school board, superintendent Randy Reid presented the board with a plan for a November bond election that would ask voters to approve funding for a new middle school, and possibly rebuilding Rice and Dixie.

The plan actually presented two options for Rice and Dixie: renovating and adding new square footage, or completely rebuilding the two schools. Based on current estimations, building the schools from scratch would cost roughly $12 million more than renovations.

If the board were to choose renovations, the plan would be to add more than 45,000 square feet to both schools, including a new gymnasium and cafeteria. But both campuses would still have classrooms that don't meet the size requirements that TISD has set.

The board suggested that it would not be a good use of funds to renovate the schools, only to have them stay short of those district-wide standards. But the final decision on renovation or new construction won't be made until the August 23 board meeting. That's also when the board will decide whether or not to put the bond election on the November ballot.

As for the new middle school, the district has already purchased 29.58 acres for the school on Old Jacksonville Highway. If the board calls for the bond, and voters pass it, the new school would be more than 185,000 square feet, accommodate 1200 students, and cost roughly $44 million. Construction would begin in Spring 2011, with an August 2012 target opening date.

If the board chooses three new schools, the bond would total almost $90 million. But if the decision is made to build a new middle school, and renovate Rice and Dixie Elementary, that number would drop to roughly $78 million.