orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Our Schools

December 14, 2013

BCISD wants citizen input on bond talks

BRIDGE CITY — A local school district wants to make its district the best it can be for its students and is considering a bond election to make that a reality.

The Bridge City Independent School District has held two open forums with district patrons recently on the possibility of calling for a bond election. As Mike King, Bridge City ISD superintendent, has stated numerous times, there has been official decision on a bond.

“We want to talk about potential facility needs in the district, and that’s what we did with these meetings,” King said. “They were conversations with the community. I wanted to hear their thoughts. This is a community school district, and we want their input.”

King said the district held a meeting in January 2013 to discuss potential “needs” the district might have for its various facilities and many programs. A Community Facility Committee was then organized and directors of district programs were asked what was “needed” to make their respective programs better.

The facility committee, which was comprised of school personnel, district residents and city officials, met monthly for 11 months and toured the campuses and various facilities and offered input to district administrators on what they found. A survey was also placed on the BCISD website where its patrons could offer input.

“We had 311 people participate in the survey, and that survey is live again until we break for Christmas on the district website,” King added. “We want people to give us their opinion. Like I said, this is a discussion. No decisions have been made.”

One of the key items featured early in the observations by the facility committee was campus safety, an item which was already in the process of being addressed by the district.

“We wanted to be proactive as a district, and we made safety renovations at all three of our older campuses,” King stated. “The high school, middle school and intermediate school now have secure entrances like our new elementary. We used district funds to handle those projects because it was timely, but we do not have the fund available to make the improvements or build the new things we have talked about with the committee.”

King said through it all the top three things that kept surfacing to the forefront on the lists and requests from directors were the construction of a performing arts a facility, upgrades to Bridge City Middle School and upgrades to athletic facilities.

The district reports there are 758 students enrolled currently at Bridge City High School, and the majority, a total of 641 students, or approximately 85 percent, are involved in various programs at the campus.

“You want kids to ‘plug into’ your campus,” King explained. “Look at it like a light bulb. The more lights you have plugged in, then the brighter they will be. We think the same goes for our students.”

Results of information received from various program directors, including art, choir, theater, communications, dance and drill team show a need for room because of how the programs have grown over the years.

Requests included space for art exhibitions, rehearsal space and practice facilities, a regulation theater and performance stage, dressing rooms, storage space and even space for broadcast journalism for the growing BCTV program.

“The topic of a performing arts center and upgrades for athletic facilities are the two most discussed needs among the committee and directors,” King added. “Some programs have outgrown their facilities. Our students deserve the best, and we want to make our programs and facilities the best in the state.”

Upgrades to athletic facilities were also part of the most recent public meeting on the bond topic.

Upgrades suggested by the facility committee included improvements to the dugouts and constructing covered bleachers for the baseball, and making these same improvements for softball as well as the addition of an upgrade to the backstop.

Bleacher improvements were proposed for Larry Ward Stadium, and even the suggestion of field turf was proposed. Improvements to concessions and restrooms were included for all stadiums.

Another consideration was the construction of a new fieldhouse to meet the needs of all athletic programs. As it is now, its location is less than suitable for other programs outside of football. King would like to see it closer to the high school by the practice field to prevent students from walking so far.

Improvements to parking and entrance locations at Bridge City Middle School and the stadium have been proposed, as well as upgrading technology in the classrooms and Vocational class opportunities for students.

One reason the district is considering the topic of a bond election is because of the consistent increase of student enrollment since 2008.

In 2008, immediately following the devastation of Hurricane Ike, the district’s enrollment reached its lowest point with 2,351 students in the district. Enrollment has increased each subsequent year and BCISD currently has 2,788 students at its four campuses.

According to information provided by BCISD during its Powerpoint presentation, which is available on the district website, approximately 70 percent of those participating in the survey have children or grand-children in BCISD.

Approximately 81 percent of those surveyed stated they were aware many of the district’s programs are growing and 94 percent believe those are important to education.

A total of 66.9 percent said they would be in favor of “the district exploring options to build facilities” to support the various co-curricular and extra-curricular programs.

One citizen in attendance at the most recent meeting expressed concern about being “taxed out of his house” if a bond election was called for and approved by voters.

King said three options have been discussed amongst the various committees on bond amounts, depending on requests made by the district of its patrons, if a bond election was to even be officially called.

Scenario 1 calls for a $10 million bond election, while Scenario 2 is $15 million and Scenario 3 is $20 million.

According to information from the district, taxes on a house valued at $100,000 would increase more than $69 per year if a $10 million bond was approved by voters. For a $15 million bond, taxes would increase more than $97 per year and more than $126 per year on a $20 million bond.

“To this point, everything we have talked about with the committees falls closer to Scenario 2, which is a $15 million bond,” King continued. “To make all of these improvements and renovations would take a bond. These decisions are for the kids and the district, so this is why we are gathering so much information and asking for the public to participate and give us their input.”

Aaron Roccaforte lives and works in Bridge City and has children enrolled in Bridge City ISD. He believes the district is in need of improvements but thinks the timing may not be the best.

“I think making improvements and new projects are a good idea for the district,” Roccaforte said. “Anything that will improve a child’s knowledge and skills is always good. I just think the timing is not the best for it without knowing more about the flood insurance issues.”

King said that issue is also being closely watched by Bridge City ISD.

In July 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, often referred to as BW-12, which calls on the FEMA, and other agencies, to make a number of changes to the way the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is run, according to FEMA.gov.

Key provisions of the legislation will require the NFIP to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders. The changes will mean premium rate increases for some—but not all—policyholders over time. This includes Orange County, and especially residents of Bridge City.

The City of Bridge City recently approved a measure to hire a Louisiana law firm to file an appeal with FEMA about the Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Extremely high flood insurance rates could stunt business growth and increased population in this community.

King wants the public to be well-informed and values the opinions provided by all district patrons and employees.

“We want district residents to see the presentation and take part in the survey we have,” King said. “Like I have said a hundred times, there has been no decision made on a bond. We just want to get as much information as we can.”

Visit www.BridgeCityISD.net to see the Powerpoint presentation and the survey.

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