November election will authorize 9 projects to meet growth
By David Taylor
Last Monday night, the Huffman ISD board of trustees voted unanimously to approve going out for a $91,834,037 bond referendum in the November election to address needs across the district as growth on the horizon is already presenting challenges.
Superintendent Dr. Benny Soileau was grateful for the work done by the bond committee, some 100-plus community members invited to participate in the process, a nod to their critics who helped defeat the previous bond.
“We had an average of about 65 that regularly attended as we met five or six times,” Soileau said, “including those that opposed the last bond. They were able to offer their perspective.”
The superintendent said the money to be spent came directly from the committee’s proposal and ideas.
The architect for the project is PBK Architects of Houston, a well-known firm in the education building space.
None of the design work or bidding will be done until after the potential passage of the bond.
The bond package addresses nine particular projects across the board.
The highest ticket item is a new Career Center at $33.56 million. The building will house vocational instruction classrooms at Hargrave High School and will be built adjacent to the 100-plus acres purchased for a new high school in the future.
“This will help reduce some of the crowding for classes we’re already experiencing at the high school,” Soileau said. “It was something that the community wanted and was strongly expressed in our bond committee meetings.”
The second project is an Operations Center. The $8.07 million building will house the police department and academic training center.
“It will also house office space for our maintenance, custodial, and food services,” he said.
In addition, it will provide a much-needed training space.
“We don’t have enough training space. When we have trainings like at the beginning of the school year, we occupy all our conference rooms, our board room, and we just run out of training space.”
The space can also be used for training ancillary staff and non-salaried staff, he said.
More space will be added to Huffman Middle School at $9,860,000. It will provide an additional 5-7 new classrooms.
“It will include the expansion of some of the existing core spaces as well because we’re just overcrowded there,” Soileau said.
Another $15.58 million is earmarked for roofing, mechanical, and plumbing projects. The facility preservation also includes fire alarm and safety upgrades at several campuses.
For safety and security concerns, another $6,647,938 will go towards access controls, fencing, entry point control, and security film.
“This also relates to the infrastructure to wire the new police department giving them access to all the cameras,” he said.
Soileau said the current technology is old and replacing parts of it would give them fits on compatibility.
The future of security means one access point for entry and exit at each campus with a checkpoint gate and a shack manned by a guard before anyone comes close to the school.
“That gives us some distance between anyone entering and kids and staff,” he said.
The guard would be able to run the Raptor system for checking visitors in for all four campuses.
Technology network infrastructure and integrated AV technology updates to the tune of $3,629,500 is also included.
Athletics at the high school will get a new gymnasium.
“We don’t have a true competition gym at our high school. We need more gym space to accommodate the larger number of kids that are participating in programs,” Soileau said.
That extends to the community who also uses the gym for youth programs and feeder programs.
The new gym would help alleviate scheduling nightmares between high school and middle school.
“Our girls basketball team was practicing in the middle school cafeteria. We need more space to address Title IX issues to create more equity in the district,” he said.
Cheerleaders need a space where their stunting has a high ceiling.
The bond also proposes an additional $738,000 for six new school buses.
To help curb growth at the elementary level, $3 million is reserved for the addition of portable buildings as necessary.
“We’ve hired an architect to help us plan how to install these. We’re not just talking about sidewalks, but ADA compliance, electrical, water, sewer, and internet infrastructure that has to be managed properly if we have to scale the location to more than one portable,” he said.
David J. Faltys with Government Capital Securities Corporation explained to the board that no one with a homestead of $100,000 or less will have to pay any new taxes with the bond.