Tyler ISD approves new middle school designs

Published on Thursday, 22 August 2013 22:26 - Written by By Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The Tyler ISD board of trustees approved the designs for three new middle schools to open in fall 2015.

New middle schools will be built at Boulter, Moore and in southwest Tyler as part of the successful $160.5 million bond package passed by TISD voters in May. The pack also funds the construction of a new career and technical education center and the completion of renovations/additions at Rice and Dixie elementary schools.

The designs for the new schools portray campuses with dominant entrances, arches, two-toned exterior color schemes and ample windows for natural light.

“It’s beautiful, it looks like a little mini college,” board member Jean Washington said of the design for Moore MST Magnet School.

Moore and Boulter middle schools will be built on different parts of the existing properties while students go to school in the current buildings.

Currently, Moore faces Tipton Avenue and spreads north and south down the property. The new school will be built on six acres on the north part of the campus’ lot with the entrance facing East Devine Street.

The design features a strong entrance with cast stone motif. The academic portion of the building is three stories with space for collaboration in that area as well.

All of the windows are on the north and south sides of the campus for energy reasons.

The architects are developing cast stone symbols that represent drama and fine arts for the side of the building that houses those facilities. The gym side likely will feature athletic icons, the architects said.

The academic part of the campus will be three stories high, the athletics area two and the fine arts area one.

Boulter Middle School presented some challenges because of the location. The property slopes down at least 15 feet in parts and a flood plain exists near the edge of the property. So the challenge was the find a place to build the new campus while students go to school in the existing facility.

Architects from two firms, Fitzpatrick Architects and SHW Group, came up with the decision to place a three-story building set back on the property behind the existing campus. It would be an L-shaped building with the main entrance at the crux.

It would have a long entry drive with two main drop-off points.

Steve Fitzpatrick with Fitzpatrick Architects said they chose a traditional architecture style. It has large windows, arches and a two-tone color.

The top two floors would feature a reddish brick on the exterior with the lower level featuring whiter masonry or brick that gives the cast stone appearance without the cost, Fitzpatrick said.

The cafeteria has large windows and a terrace. Outside space could be used as an amphitheater or outdoor classroom, Fitzpatrick said. The bus drop-off would be on the backside. Each entry point is represented by arched elements.

Board Vice President Andy Bergfeld praised the architects’ work.

“Y’all did a great job and it’s going to be something that the neighborhood can be proud of,” he said.

The middle school to be built on Three Lakes Parkway in southwest Tyler also features traditional style of architecture.

Fred B. Montes with PBK, the firm designing the facility, said the design features a two-story building with a triple-arch entry. It has strong curb appeal and a collegiate look.

The design features two colors with cast stone or white brick accenting the reddish brick.

Large arched and rectangular windows can be seen across the front of the building.

The library has an open design that would allow for ample natural light, Montes said. In addition, the campus offers outdoor space.

“It looks great, very classical, very keeping with where we wanted to go with all of our buildings,” trustee Brad Spradlin said. “It looks very, very good.”

In addition to approving the campus designs, the board also approved the budget and tax rate as proposed.

The $134.8 million budget is up about $7 million from last year. It provides for employee pay raises, personnel hires and additional monies for the health insurance contingency fund.

The approved tax rate is $1.375 per $100 valuation, the same as last year’s rate. The district could maintain this rate because of increases in the state appropriation and property values.

The rate includes $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 33.5 cents for debt service.

Board President the Rev. Orenthia Mason thanked Chief Financial Officer Tosha Bjork for her work to keep the district fiscally sound.

She was pleased to know that the TISD employees and substitute teachers will receive raises this year.

Only one person addressed the board regarding the budget and tax rate. Rick Eisenbach, board member and chairman of the TISD Watchdog Committee of Grassroots America – We the People, a conservative political action committee.

Eisenbach, who spoke on behalf of the organization, said they disapprove of any growth in administrative positions, contend the district has never been cash-strapped, and asserts that TISD’s actual revenue has increased in the past five years.

The local property tax levy also has gone up significantly, he said.

He urged district officials to pay attention to the facts and said the district should reduce the maintenance and operations portion of its tax rate to the effective rate.

The effective rate, which for TISD is $1.034 for maintenance and operations, is the rate that would bring in the previous year’s revenue.

“Until the district has a long-range academic improvement plan supported by your teachers, we will not return to supporting your budget as we have done for the past couple of years,” he said, according to a news release. “We do, however, support a raise for the teachers but not for the administrators.”