Tyler School District Puts Needs At $387 Million Dollars

The numbers are in. $387 million is the target amount to totally remake TISD's campuses. That's according to a report from the Staubach Company, a consultant hired to determine the facility needs for Tyler schools. Their proposal is split between schools in need of renovation and schools they believe should be replaced.

Douglas Elementary school, was said to be one of the campuses in most need of replacement. Principal of the school, Beverly Collins has spent the past five and a half years walking its halls and wishing she could give the students who walk through them with her a better place to learn.

"It's a very small facility not much room between aisles. We put as many children in as we can at one time to save time to save instructional time," says Principal Collins.

She also tell us, Douglas Elementary is a reflection of most other TISD campuses: an aging facility in desperate need of change and space. To hold all of the Pre-K through 5th grade children, they've had to make 23 portable buildings into classrooms, which Principal Collins says needs to change.

"When the weather is bad they have to come a very far distance from the very corner of the campus to the main building, so children just get soaked when it rains very hard," says Collins.

All but a few of the portable buildings are not equipped with running water. The main building was constructed in 1937 for only 230 students, and now they have 730. The student's lunch period is affected by lack of space. Since the cafeteria can only hold about 200 kids at a time, lunch for some starts at 10:20 a.m., keeping others from eating till after one in the afternoon.

Collins believes the cramped rooms, a lack computers, and up-to-date science equipment, may have lowered TAKS scores last year. TISD's Director of Facilities, Tim Loper, says Douglas is not the only campus where age and space are a learning hindrance to kids.

"There is overcrowding just about at every campus that you look at. Some of our rooms are just so small and so cramped, we lose some of the teachers creativity," Loper says.

Many teachers have even opted not to have a desk of their own to give more room to their students.

Loper says these issues have not changed since the last rejected bond, but this time their proposal is different.

"Yes the number was $387 million, but I want to be real clear to let others understand that we understand we cannot do $387 million all at once. And we will not go to the voters with a bond of 387 million," says Loper.

Instead the district would break the bond up into several chunks, to be spent on selected campuses over a period of possibly twelve years. Something TISD hopes will take away the sticker shock tax payers got from the last $293 million bond that was presented all at once. And something Principal Collins is banking on as well.

"The changes are critical for providing quality education for our children," says Principal Collins.

If the new bond passes, and all repairs, replacements, and renovations are made to TISD campuses, no portable buildings would be needed.

That would also mean saying goodbye to many of the older schools, as well. Ten schools would be completely replaced, eight of those are Elementary Schools, including: Austin, Clarkston, Douglas, Bell, Bonner, Peete, Ramey, and Jones Elementaries. Two middle schools will also be replaced: Stewart and Moore. The total cost for those replacements would be more than $162 million.

The rest of the 19 campuses will receive repairs or additions which all together will cost more than $225 million. The proposal includes the addition of a new elementary school as well.

Reporting: Braid Sharp bsharp@kltv.com