Tyler ISD set to vote on bringing forward $198 million bond package to replace Robert E. Lee and John Tyler High Schools

Published on Sunday, 12 February 2017 23:51 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

The Tyler ISD Board of Trustees will vote Monday to place a $198 million bond on the ballot for the May 6 election.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Davidson conference room of the Plyer Instructional Complex, 807 W. Glenwood Blvd. The meeting is open to the public.

The bond will see renovations to Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high schools, expanding the capacity, upgrading safety and efficiency features and improving traffic flow.

The bond was proposed in November 2016, with an original price tag of $209 million. Superintendent Marty Crawford said the district was able to bring that total down through savings from previous bond packages.

Crawford also said the district has managed to save taxpayers more than $14.4 million through retirement and refinancing of bonds over the past three years.

The bond proposal would raise the tax rate by $39 annually or $3.25 per month for a home with a valuation of $155,000.

BACKGROUND

The district is in the process of determining how best to replace the current high schools. The most discussed option has been renovations, which would see total overhauls of Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high schools at a cost of about $198 million, saving the community between $50 and $90 million were the board to call for complete replacements or a move to three smaller high schools.

Over the last decade, Tyler ISD has considered many options for replacing its aging high schools, according to school board President Andy Bergfeld.

“In 2003, we got together a citizen’s advisory committee to help develop a long-range facilities plan for Tyler ISD and an academic reform system that would kind of parallel that,” Bergfeld said.

Over the past few years, discussions focused on either total replacement of Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high schools or building three smaller high schools, Crawford said.

Recently the board began to take a hard look at renovations rather than total rebuilds.

At recent meetings, the board has reviewed plans previously worked up by Corgan Associates, its architecture firm on retainer.

ISSUES FACING THE SCHOOLS

Students and teachers have had to utilize portable buildings that have been on campus for more than 30 years, since John Tyler burned down in 1981, Director of Facilities Tim Loper said.

“Portables are temporary. Those are not supposed to be a long-term solution. A district goes with those with a plan,” Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford previously said. “It’s a morale killer and concerning for staff. You want teachers to have a collegiate environment.”

Although John Tyler was 95 percent rebuilt in 1981, it is still outdated and not up to today’s standards. Robert E. Lee is nearly 60 years old and has seen little in the way of improvements to the classrooms.

The buildings also have structural and safety issues. Students are scattered across multiple buildings, creating safety concerns. The buildings leak, letting in water, and there are ongoing maintenance challenges.

New campus designs will mean students no longer have to walk out in the open from building to building between classes.

Robert E. Lee also will see the campus pushed south to allow for construction of an internal loop that will help ease traffic congestion.

The cost to renovate Lee sits at $122 million. The varsity gymnasium, field house and auditorium will remain, while the rest of campus would be almost totally rebuilt.

Because John Tyler is newer, the district will be able to utilize more of the campus. The campus will gain a fine arts wing facing Loop 323, creating a new façade for the school. The cost for John Tyler to be renovated is $87 million.

New campuses would come in at around $130 million each for two or $100 million each for three smaller campuses.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory