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Goose Creek bond issue to benefit Highlands students

HIGHLANDS – Speaking at the weekly Rotary Club luncheon, Gilbert Santana, spokesperson for the Goose Creek Facilities Planning Committee explained the need for a new bond issue, and the benefits that will accrue to the school district and its students.

Voters will be asked on May 11 to consider and approve two bond referendums, totalling $267.54 million dollars and providing for new construction of three elementary schools, a new technology center, and a new transportation center. Also the funds will be used for maintenance upgrades on all Goose Creek schools, and implementation of comprehensive technology and safety improvements.

The bond proposal is a result of a study made last fall by an ad hoc Facilities Planning Committee. This group, with the help of demographic and architectural consultants, decided that the projected growth of students in the district required the construction of new schools, and at the same time suggested upgrading of all facilities to keep up with eductional standards and to prepare Goose Creek students properly to compete in the future.

The district currently has about 21,500 students, makeing it the 58th largest in the state. Growth is currently occuring at between 1 and 2%, and will continue at this pace or greater. This means that in the next ten years, the district must accommodate another 4,500 students, Santana said.

In addition to meeting the needs of population growth, the committee saw the need for modernization of existing facilities, the need to add up-to-date technology, new facilities, and safety improvements at all campuses.

The committee recommended a total of $340 million in improvements to the GC CISD board of trustees, but the board decided to split the proposal into three parts. Propositions I and II are the subject of the $267.54 million bond referendum, and a remaining $70 million will be accomplished with other funding.

Highlands students will benefit directly, with the following funds scheduled for their schools:

— Goose Creek Memorial HS will get a $7.348 million addition for new programs, $4.3 million for technology, and $600,000 for safety and security

— Highlands Jr. School will get $400,000 for a STEM laboratory (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and another $765,000 for maintenance, safety and technology upgrades

— Highlands Elementary will get $1.5 million for facilities upgrades and technology — B.P. Hopper will get $2.89 million for facilities upgrades, safety and technology

Safety and Security improvements, which seem necessary in today’s environment nationwide, will include controlled access vestibules, fencing, and cameras in all the schools.

The bond proposal also includes other facilities that the district needs. These include a new Data and Technology Center, on a 15 acre site at North Main and W. Archer in Baytown, with a $7.16 million figure.

Also planned is an expansion and upgrade of the Agriculture Center, $5.7 million, upgrades to Stallworth stadium $1.2 million, and a new transportation center and bus garage and maintenance, $10.75 million.

Santana explained that in addition to emphasis on technology and STEM education programs, the district wants to insure that career programs in automotive and air conditioning, welding and related industrial fields are planned, too. Joint programs with Lee College are also being developed for these industrial fields.

Three new elementary schools are planned, each costing about $22 million. Santana said that at this time, no expansion of middle or high schools is required for student population growth.

The bond issue will result in a modest increase in taxes to district residents. It is anticipated that for a homeowner with a $100,000 house, the additional taxes would be $97.80 per year, or only $8.15 per month. For a home valued at $200,000 the increase would be $215.16 per year, or $17.93 per month.

For citizens 65 years or older, with a homestead exemption, there will not be any increase in their taxes.

Santana encouraged citizens to consider early voting, which will run from April 29 through May 7. Central locations for this are the GC CISD Administration Building, and the Lee College Admin Building. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May 3rd, and May 4th 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 5th 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and May 6th and 7th 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In addition, Temporary Early Voting will be at Harlem Elementary April 30th 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Highlands Elementary May 2nd 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Goose Creek Memorial High School May 3rd 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Highlands Jr. School and Hopper Primary May 7th 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Election Day is May 11th.