On May 5, 2018, voters approved a $575-million bond referendum for Humble ISD. The Humble ISD Board of Trustees immediately authorized the initial $125 million of that money to be spent on pressing projects that had been identified as the highest priority.

On July 24, the district sold $125 million in bonds to pay for the first portion of the plan. Now, $450 million of the approved $575 million in bonds remain to be sold to fund a wide range of projects the voters approved.

So, what is the plan? What are the specific projects and when can the community expect them? Jamie Mount, HISD’s director for public communications, explained the 2018 Bond objectives that are driving the planning process.

“They are to build new schools, rebuild aging facilities, renovate and repair existing school facilities, and update technology and safety enhancements,” said Mount.

Those objectives cover a wide range of different projects, both long term and short term. Because of the magnitude of the projects, the work is not going to happen all at once. In addition, other factors influence the timing of when authorized bonds will be sold in the market, including the bond market itself and the interrelationship of timing among many of the projects.

Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen explained the overall planning guidelines the district is using.

“We are taking the projects selected by the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee and putting them together in the most cost-effective, practical and purposeful sequence for our students and staff. Our first focus was safety, and during the summer we constructed security vestibules and upgraded security cameras. For the start of school, we improved WiFi access and installed field turf. We are now developing the timeline for major projects, including campus renovations and new construction,” Fagen said.

Mount noted that there is also a major consideration of timing in terms of avoiding an impact on property tax rates. The 2018 Bond was approved with the specific commitment by the district to its voters to avoid having to raise the district’s current tax valuation rate.

“The school board strategically plans bond sales, selling only a portion of authorized bonds at a time, to not raise the tax rate. The district plans to manage growth while keeping the tax rate at $1.52 (per $100 valuation) as it has been for the past decade,” Mount said.

This is one reason a significant number of the projects covered by the 2018 Bond will not start in 2018. The bond money was approved with the long term in mind in terms of growth and anticipated student populations. Many of the projects it funds will be carried to conclusion in later years.

The final decisions on when the bonds are to be sold and projects begun are made by the board of trustees. They oversee the bond plan. Mount explained that Associate Superintendent for Operational Support Services Nolan Correa manages construction and Chief Financial Officer Mike Seale manages the district’s budget, bond sales and accounting. The board’s Building and Planning Committee, chaired by Board Trustee Martina Dixon, plays a key role in coordinating and providing the final recommendations to the board regarding bond projects, including facility renovations, new campuses and land acquisitions.

A key tool the district uses in making these decisions is the 2017-27 Facilities Assessment. It was developed in 2017 and was reported in detail in a three-part series in The Tribune in July and August 2017. This comprehensive planning document was used by the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee that selected the projects for the 2018 Bond. It includes architectural and facilities evaluations for the entire district, its lands and all of its buildings. It also includes detailed demographic and anticipated growth projections of what is expected in student population growth and the needs of the overall community. It is more than 500 pages in length and is available to the public at pbk.com/media/_fbooks/Humble%20ISD%202017%20Facilities%20Assessment.

Mount summarized the projects now underway using the initial $125 million of the bond money. They include:

- Remodeling schools to include secured visitors’ entry at all campuses that did not already have a secure vestibule in place. A secure vestibule provides a physical barrier between the school’s front lobby and the remainder of the school, protecting students and staff.

- Increasing the quality and quantity of security cameras and other building safety enhancements. This is a high priority given the events of recent years on school campuses everywhere.

- Updates to alarm systems, air-handling, and other mechanical systems for various campuses.

- Improvements to technology connectivity and reliability by increasing bandwidth and WiFi access.

- Design work on the addition to add classrooms at Atascocita High School. This is needed in order to determine specific project costs and timing before proceeding further.

- Architectural design competition to be launched for the rebuild of Lakeland Elementary School. Humble ISD is inviting architects to submit designs for the rebuilding of the 58-year-old campus.

- Work toward rebuilding the district’s northern Agricultural Barn on a new site because the current site is prone to flooding. The northern Ag Barn serves Kingwood and Kingwood Park students. The land has already been located near Porter and the board recently approved its purchase. The southern Ag Barn, which serves Atascocita, Humble and Summer Creek students, will gain restrooms and office space.

- Installing field turf at Atascocita, Kingwood, Kingwood Park and Summer Creek high schools. Humble High School already has access to field turf at Turner Stadium. Field turf will also be installed at the Turner baseball/softball complex. Mount explained that the district had to replace Kingwood High School’s field this summer because it was destroyed by flooding. To save money, the district chose to do all the turf at once, which put its cost at the top of the approval list. By bundling Kingwood High School’s turf with other fields, the district saved about $500,000 compared to waiting and doing the fields later as separate projects. The purpose of installing the new turf is because it is more durable than grass and will increase the number of groups – such as middle school teams, band and community teams – that can use the fields.

Mount explained that the projects listed above were prioritized in the initial phase of spending as a matter of urgent need more than for meeting the long-term planning requirements of the district. The remaining $450 million in bonds will be sold in phases yet to be developed and will be approved as needed at appropriate times by the board to meet the needs of the district.

“The district anticipates selling bonds in phases over the next five to six years as funding is needed for projects and bonds can be sold without increasing the tax rate,” said Mount.

The projects include:

- A new middle school, School No. 10, to be located next to Ridge Creek Elementary School. Naming of schools occurs in partnership with the community the year before the school opens.

- A new elementary school, School No. 30, to be located in Fall Creek.

- Rebuilding Kingwood Middle School.

- Rebuilding Lakeland Elementary School.

- A second Transportation Center. Land for this northern center near the new Ag Center has been located and its purchase approved by the board. Design and construction funding is included in the initial bond sale.

- Expanding the district police station.

- Districtwide technology and security projects.

- Renovations, updates and repairs to high school, middle school and elementary school campuses.

 

Bruce Olson
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I have been married since 1970 to Kerry, my best friend and a great Australian woman. I served and survived Vietnam in the U.S. Air Force. I fought forest fires in the summer while in college, where I earned a B.A. in economics from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas. I retired from Continental Airlines. I have a son and two granddaughters in Kingwood, and a daughter and two grandsons on a farm near Mazabuka, Zambia. I am now enjoying life as a grandfather, Tribune correspondent and Humble ISD guest teacher when not traveling to Zambia or Australia.