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Elementary on way

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

DISD plans to open new school in 2014

The Denton school district intends to build a new elementary school by next year.

Board members voted 7-0 on Tuesday to issue $45 million in bonds from the 2007 bond package within six months.

The money will be used to fund land purchases, construction of the district’s 22nd elementary school that’s slated to be built in Lantana and planning costs for a fourth high school.

Mia Price, who completed her last meeting as board president, said when the 2007 bond referendum passed, she didn’t “expect the economy to take such a strong downturn” and that the board would still be issuing 2007 bonds nearly six years later. She said she was excited to authorize the bond sale Tuesday in an act that can further move along some of the remaining projects voters approved in 2007.

“I think it’s necessary,” Price said. “We should have sold them ideally three years ago, so we’re really trying to catch up as far as our facilities, but we’re not going to look back, we’re only going to look ahead with optimism and enthusiasm.”

Superintendent Jamie Wilson said selling the additional bonds will allow the district to take advantage of low constructions costs before expenses increase across the area and help move along projects that will assist in alleviating overcrowding at existing schools.

He said he intends to bring a guaranteed maximum price for the new elementary school to the board by its second meeting in August. Wilson said he’s hopeful the district can open the new elementary school in fall 2014.

Currently, he said there’s no room in the district’s southern schools for special programs such as bilingual classes, pre-kindergarten and a preschool program for children with disabilities because all classroom space is being used for general classes.

Students are bused or commute to other campuses within the district where such programs are available, Wilson said.

He also expressed concern that the district’s three traditional high schools are either near or above the 2,000-student functional capacity.

District officials said Wednesday that enrollment at Denton High School was 1,928, Guyer High School was at 2,145 and Ryan High School was at 2,191.

In order to build a fourth high school, the district would have to call a bond election and get voter approval. The district is in the early stages of calling a bond election and in recent months has approved a 2013 bond committee and an advisory committee charge.

As of Wednesday, the two elementary schools in the Lantana area had more than 700 students each. Blanton Elementary School had 717 and E.P. Rayzor Elementary School had 705, Wilson said.

On average, he said the two elementary schools grow by about 35 students, or 5 percent, annually. Wilson said he projects the elementary schools will exceed their 740-student capacity by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

To alleviate overcrowding at E.P. Rayzor Elementary, the district in January 2012 rezoned approximately 90 students living in the Country Lakes development from E.P. Rayzor to W.S. Ryan Elementary School. The boundary modification took effect last fall.

In its last bond sale in December 2011, the district sold $40 million in bonds to build its seventh middle school — on Garza Road in Shady Shores — which is slated to open in August.

At the same time, the district chose to use more than $9 million in contingency funds for renovations and for adding classrooms and science labs at three of its elementary schools. The money also will help modify existing technology projects, including relocating fiber optic cables for road construction.

More than $31.7 million remains unsold of the $282 million approved by voters in 2007. Projects that remain from the bond referendum include additional land purchases and the construction of a support services building.

The board must sell the remaining bonds by 2017 or the district loses its chance to sell them, said Randy Stout, the school district’s attorney.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 or via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.