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Two options for site of new high school

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

Denton school board to decide between properties in 380 area

The Denton school board will consider the location for its next high school Tuesday.

School district Superintendent Jamie Wilson said board members will decide between two properties along the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor for placement of the district’s fourth comprehensive high school. One site up for consideration is located at FM720 between Martop and McCormick roads, in Oak Point, and the other is at the southeast corner of Navo Road and U.S. 380 in the Paloma Creek area.

“One of the things that plays into the location for us is we want to make it the gateway to Denton ISD from the east,” Wilson said. “We want to keep it as close to our families as possible, not only for convenience for our families but also for long-term reductions in transportation costs.”

Also equally important is the access to infrastructure such as gas lines, sewer, water and roadways, he said.

According to Wilson, the district closed on about 66 acres at the southeast corner of Navo Road and U.S. 380 for an undisclosed amount on March 7. The district is in negotiations to purchase additional land near the site, according to school officials. The land the district owns on FM720 is approximately 140 acres.

The site approved Tuesday will impact the high school’s final design, he said.

Charles Stafford, board president, said the most likely choice for the new high school would be at the corner of Navo and U.S. 380 because of its accessibility. The problem with placing the high school at the FM720 property is that it’s not close to students, he said.

Stafford said that plans for the widening of FM720 have changed, and while the widening comes up from Little Elm, he said it’s intended to stop at the district’s property and not extend to U.S. 380 — which could cause traffic to bottleneck on a two-lane road if the new school is placed there.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said.

Stafford said he estimates that by placing the school at Navo and U.S. 380, half of the students attending the school could walk there, which could also save the district in transportation costs.

“For every school bus you park and don’t have to use for that purpose, you save $50,000,” he said. “It has some clear advantages both in terms of proximity to the kids and future savings in transportation costs. It’s going to be a very attractive school in a high-visibility location.”

Last November, voters approved a $312 million bond package that includes construction of a fourth high school at an estimated cost of $149.6 million.

District officials have said $3.5 million from the 2007 bond was allocated to design the new high school.

“Our community had great foresight in putting planning and design of this fourth high school in the 2007 bond,” Wilson said. “That probably speeds things up about a year.”

He said the district is still on schedule to request that the school board authorize the sale of 2013 bonds for the high school’s construction later this spring, followed by requests to approve the total cost and final plans for the new high school this summer.

Wilson said he hopes the district can open the high school by fall 2016 with freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

At a Feb. 25 meeting, a financial adviser told the board that based on the district increasing its tax rate by 1 cent per $100 in property valuation, it would have sufficient valuation growth and revenue to support construction for the new high school, Stafford said.

Kim Dickey, president of the Navo Middle School PTA, said a majority of residents along the 380 Corridor with children in the Denton school district are excited about the arrival of a new high school. Dickey is the mother of a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader who will likely attend the new high school.

Currently, students in the area attend either Denton or Ryan high schools, both of which are in Denton city limits.

“I think the need is huge because we’ve got four elementary schools feeding into one middle school that’s completely crowded,” Dickey said. “It’s going to be a very welcome addition to the 380 Corridor, for sure. I know that parents are excited to not have to go so far for high school.”

Since 2002, the school district has built five campuses — four elementary schools and one middle school — on the 380 Corridor. A total of about 5,000 students enrolled in the district attend school along the corridor, officials said.

Also Tuesday, the school board is expected to consider naming a new elementary school principal, the naming of members to the 2013 bond progress committee and canceling the May 10 school board election due to unopposed candidates.

The board is expected to discuss in executive session the naming of its 22nd elementary school, now under construction in the Lantana area, and could return from executive session to approve the school’s name.

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Stephens Central Administration Building, 1307 N. Locust St. in Denton.

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