Chapel Hill school bond would update, expand space

Published on Thursday, 8 May 2014 17:12 - Written by Faith Harper fharper@tylerpaper.com

New Chapel Hill residents will have their final opportunity to weigh in on a proposed $21 million school bond Saturday.

Polls will be open 12 hours Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and locations vary based on precincts.

The bond is a smaller package after a similar bond was voted down in November.

The proposal includes renovating and expanding Chapel Hill Middle School by adding between 12 to 15 additional classrooms and renovating the band hall. A stage would be added to the cafeteria for the theater department, and the entryway into the campus would be revamped for more security.

Expansions also would happen at the high school to make way for more career and technology classrooms.

The bond also includes renovating “the old Pre-K building” at Jackson Elementary to keep people from walking between the buildings without coming through the main entrance.

The proposal includes upgrades to the district’s baseball stadium, and replacing bleachers at the football stadium.

If passed, the bond would increase the district’s debt service by 9.5 cents to a total debt of 26.8 cents per $100 property valuation.

Combined with the maintenance and operations portion of the tax rate, taxpayers would have a total tax rate of $1.348 per $100 valuation. The average taxpayer (with a home valued at $135,112) would pay $114.11 more per year in taxes for the 21-year term of the bond.

Tammy Humes, Place 4 school board candidate and parent, has been a vocal opponent of the bond and said the second proposal was part of what drove her to run for the office.

“I’m trying to get more communication and more information” to the community, she said. “The more information they have, the more supportive they are going to be with the district, and that (communication) is what makes a good district.”

Mrs. Humes said she agrees with some of the things inside the bond package but thinks other bonds should be paid off before the district takes on more debt.

She said she’d like to see more safety issues addressed in the bond and believes a formal inspection of each campus should be conducted to make sure they are safe. Renovations on the district’s athletic facilities are not the top priority for her, however, she approved of the addition of space for CTE programs and renovations at the middle school.

“I’m not just concerned about my child, I’m concerned with other people’s children and the people working in these schools because they are just at risk as the kids,” Mrs. Humes said. “If we are going to spend the big bucks, let’s focus it on keeping everyone safe.”

Humes’ opponent Fred Elder Jr., who also has children in the district, said he was still making his mind up on the bond but ran for the school board to help students.

“I’m interested in what’s going on … to see how things are run,” he said. “I’m curious to see what’s going on and see if I can help kids out.”

Cody Moore, Chapel Hill ISD parent and youth pastor at Sharon Baptist Church in Arp, said the bond will provide needed improvements to the district.

“Chapel Hill has always done the best they can with what they have,” he said. “You can walk around the facility, and the facilities, structurally, are great. They keep buses in rotation every year… (and) the heating and cooling is done the same way. They take small bits of stuff and do what they can, and they use the bonds to get the bigger projects done that matter and that they can get done at a reasonable price.”

Moore said he is in favor of all the projects in the bond package because they will benefit all students, including making sporting events accessible to all students with disabilities.

“Our middle school (students) are not getting our best,” he said. “We have five (special needs) students and a teacher in a large storage closet. It is adequate enough to have seating and the teacher in there. They are comfortable, but … they don’t have the privacy they need in that classroom.

“They are doing what they can with what they have, and the school does not want to go to portables, but that is where they are headed if this doesn’t pass.”

Moore said the school district is at the heart of the community, and it has an obligation to do what is best for the students there.

“I am an alumni, and if you poke me I would bleed blue and gold …” he said. “All of my family has come through Chapel Hill, and I think we have an obligation to our kids to give them the best opportunity to succeed and I do think ha this bond is step in that direction.”