Tim Crouch and Michael Woods: Bond package vital to growing district

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It should come as no surprise to anyone living in Denton County that we are growing rapidly. Evidence of that growth is seen every day in the form of new construction, highway expansions and student enrollment increases in the Denton ISD’s schools.

The school district has seen dramatic growth since 2000, when there were just 13,000 students in the Denton ISD. In just 13 years, the district has more than doubled in size to more than 26,000 students and there are more students coming to the district every day.

It is because of this growth that the school district’s board of trustees is asking voters to approve a $312 million bond package that primarily focuses on addressing the growth needs of the district. The focal point of the bond package is a new high school to be built in the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor.

This area has been the fastest-growing section of the district for more than a decade. Currently, high school students residing in the U.S. 380 area are bused each day to Denton and Ryan high schools with some students spending up to three hours a day on a bus. The new high school is planned to open in the fall of 2015, when there will be more than 1,400 high school-age students in the corridor. This high school is desperately needed to eliminate overcrowding at Denton High and Ryan High.

The package also includes a ninth-grade addition at Guyer High. The same issue of rapid growth in the southern part of the school district calls for building a ninth-grade addition and expanding Guyer’s capacity from 2,600 to 3,000 students.

This expansion also accomplishes the bond committee’s primary goals to limit the amount of time kids spend on buses each day and eliminate overcrowding at the high schools. If approved, Denton and Ryan high schools will be large 4A high schools while Guyer will become a larger 5A school. The new high school will be built to eventually become a 5A high school as the student population continues to grow.

In addition to addressing the growth of the Denton ISD’s high schools, there is also the need for an eighth middle school and two additional elementary schools. Without the new classrooms, there will not be enough space in existing buildings for the students moving to the area. As a result, they would be in portable buildings, which create challenges to the learning environment and security issues for those in the portables.

The bond issue also includes funds for $18 million in land acquisitions, $1.6 million for energy conservation improvements and $11.4 million to renovate 17 existing school buildings. Long-range planning helps keep the district abreast of land needs. For example, school officials and the board of trustees work with developers from the planning stages. Therefore, almost all of the recently built elementary school sites — and those included in this bond election — have been donated.

The bond package does include a 1 cent tax increase or $1.25 per month for a $150,000 home. For current residents in the school district, this is a bargain. It will be future growth that will pay for the bulk of the package. As new residential developments — and more importantly commercial and industrial developments — come on line, they will add to the district tax base to pay for these projects.

The Denton ISD is a large district geographically, encompassing more than 180 square miles. The city of Denton is 80 square miles. When the district is fully built out, we will have eight or nine high schools.

Build out is obviously many, many years into the future. It is time to “pay it forward” to approve this bond package to build the schools that we will need, just as those who came before us “paid it forward” to build the schools that are teaching our kids today.

It is a good investment in our kids and the reason to vote for the Denton ISD bond package on Nov. 5. Early voting begins on Monday.

TIM CROUCH and MIKE WOODS are co-chairmen of the 2013 Bond Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by the Denton school board.

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