Denton ISD bond package addresses priorities

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by Jeff Williams and Lauren Baccus, Guest Columnists

On May 5, voters in the Denton school district will have the opportunity to vote for the future of our students. We had the privilege of serving as co-chairs of a 57-person Citizens Advisory Committee that studied the needs of the district and then made a recommendation to the board of trustees for the bond package that will require no tax rate increase for the district.

Over a five-month period, the committee studied the facility needs of our rapidly growing district. We found the needs to be tremendously challenging and, to be honest, a little overwhelming. With the help of school district employees, visits to many of our campuses and some outside experts, the committee prioritized the needs and developed a recommendation for the board.

Three priorities were identified: safety of students and educators, growth and equity. All three of these priorities are addressed in this bond package.

All schools will receive security upgrades. These include restricted access points at main entrances, additional high-definition cameras at every school and secure vestibules will be added at the two schools where they don’t already exist.

The safety of our students and faculty is of first priority.

To prepare for growth in our district, two new schools are in the bond, including a middle school and an elementary. This should accommodate growth in the district for the next five years.

The biggest portion of the package relates to equity. There are several schools in the district that are decades old and in great need of improvement.

The technology, learning environments and opportunities that our newest schools enjoy are not possible at these older campuses.

The committee proposes the complete replacement of Denton High School, Newton Rayzor Elementary and Woodrow Wilson Elementary. We also recommend an extensive renovation of Strickland Middle School, leaving only the most recently constructed portions. When the new Denton High is completed, we recommend moving Calhoun Middle School to the current Denton High campus.

Moving Denton High was a big item of discussion. Currently Denton High sits on about 35 acres while Braswell High School sits on more than 100 acres. It was determined that to try and duplicate the learning environment and opportunities of Braswell High at Denton High would simply not be feasible. Even if we could, it would still be on only 35 acres of land with little to no opportunity to expand.

The new Denton High will be within the heart of the city and will take with it all the traditions and rich history of this anchor school in our district. Building a new Denton High will provide the state-of-the-art facility that the students and residents of Denton ISD deserve.

In addition, the committee recommended renovations and upgrades to 25 other facilities within the district. These include upgrades to classrooms, flooring and sidewalks, restrooms, building climate control systems, upgraded technology systems and much more. You can see a complete list of all the items in the bond by visiting our website, www.votefordentonisdbond.com.

A careful study of the projects will show that schools in all four of the Denton ISD high school attendance zones are receiving attention. While we were not able to include 100 percent of the needs we identified, we were able to address needs in every area of the district.

Funding for construction in the school district requires voter approval to sell bonds. Because the district, with the leadership of the administration and the school board, has paid off bonds at an expedited pace, the district’s bonding capacity will allow the district to do these projects with no increase in the tax rate.

New construction alone in the last six months of 2017 added more than $600 million to the tax base of the district. With more new construction and rising property values, the district has the capacity it needs to fund these projects.

However, if the trend does not continue, the projects will simply be delayed until such time as the funds are available. The Denton ISD board of trustees has been extremely responsible with our tax dollars for many years; we can rest assured they will continue to do so in the years to come.

We believe this package contains those projects that are desperately needed for our students, educators and community. We believe they can all be done and will be done with no tax rate increase. We hope you will join us in voting for the Denton ISD bond package.

Jeff Williams and Lauren Baccus were co-chairs of the Denton school district’s Citizens Advisory Committee.

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