The Pasadena ISD Board of Trustees has approved a bond election seeking $175.5 million in funding for several projects including early college high schools, three replacement campuses, new elementary and middle schools and an update to district technology. The bond carries a zero tax rate increase.
Dr. Kirk Lewis, superintendent of schools, said with enrollment growth for the district on the rise, now is the right time for a bond issuance.
“The bond will expand the Early College High School program to all district high schools,” he said. “In addition, we will address overcrowding with two new schools and a ninth grade campus at Dobie.”
The Early College program pilot has been operating at Pasadena High School for four years. In addition the program has improved academic performance with 11 students making the Dean’s List.
With voter approval on the 2014 school bond, Pasadena ISD will expand the Early College High School program to Dobie, Sam Rayburn, Pasadena Memorial and South Houston. Once fully operational, these five Early College programs will graduate approximately 500 to 600 students per year with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from San Jacinto College.
Along with the early college high school program, Dobie High School which is the district’s most densely populated high school, will receive a ninth grade campus which will alleviate the overcrowding.
Enrollment growth also impacts the intermediate and elementary grade levels. Several major new housing developments in the district are in the Thompson Intermediate School attendance zone. Thompson, Bondy, and Beverly Hills intermediate schools are already beyond capacity and cannot handle additional growth. Rezoning will not ease the burden, which is why the Future Facilities Committee (FFC) recommended construction of Intermediate School #11 in the Riverstone Ranch area.
In addition to Intermediate School #11, the bond will provide Elementary School #36 in the Almeda-Genoa area of Houston.
“As enrollment in our district continues to grow, classroom space must grow to accommodate these new students,” Lewis said. “Should this bond pass, we may not need additional new schools in the future with the exception of perhaps one more elementary on the south side of the district.”
The bond will also address the need for replacement campuses for schools that are all more than half a century old. Pomeroy, L.F. Smith and Mae Smythe elementary schools are the campuses affected.
The campuses have succumb to wear and tear after thousands of students have walked their halls.
The cost of renovating these campuses, to provide needed repairs and to bring them up to date with technology standards and capacity guidelines, now exceeds the cost of building new campuses.
The technology portion of the bond will equip all students in grades 5 through 12 with district issued mobile computer devices through the One-to-One Initiative. The proposal also includes plans to replace or upgrade computer hardware and software every five years to keep systems up to date and efficient.
All of these bond projects are being considered at a zero tax rate increase. This is in part, because the board has carefully considered the projects to include just as they did for the 2011 school bond.
“There were several projects we would have loved to add to the 2011 school bond, but if we had, we would have had to include a tax rate increase and we just couldn’t do that to our voters,” Lewis said. “The same is true for the current bond.”