Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

April 30, 2010

Voters weighing merits of new elementary school

GRANDVIEW — The immediate future of the Grandview ISD is in the hands of its voters.

A $16 million bond election scheduled for May 8 will determine if the Grandview school district gets a new elementary school. The board trustees approved calling the election by a vote of 7-0.

By law, Superintendent Keith Scharnhorst isn’t allowed to publicly support or oppose the bond.

“I try to present the facts and let the community decide,” Scharnhorst said Thursday. “I trust our voters. We have a great community. I believe that as long as we give them the facts, they’ll make an informed decision. I don’t know if voters here have ever turned down a bond. I know they haven’t in the last 10 years I’ve been here.

Only one election has been called during that time.

“That bond package was for a new wing of 16 classrooms at the high school. It was all educational space.”

Grandview voters proved visionary then, he said.

“There were science labs included in that bond package,” Scharnhorst said, “so when 4-by-4 [math and science state-mandated] curriculum came in, we were in pretty good position. We were ahead of the curve a little bit. We were also able to stay current with technology with computer labs.”

Grandview voters are going back to the polls.

Part of the old elementary school is 40 years old. It’s an “add-on” facility, with portions of the campus under different roofs. Classroom size does not meet Texas Education Agency standards. TEA requires 800-square feet for pre-K or kindergarten and 700-square feet for elementary.

“We’re within 30 to 40 square feet of those now, and we’re grandfathered [into current compliance],” Scharnhorst said. “I don’t think we’d be forced to do anything if we remained in the current elementary, but any new space will have to fit TEA requirements.”

The new elementary would feature four classrooms per grade level — pre-K through fifth — “and we’d probably put in a couple of extra classrooms to give us the ability to expand those quads so they could handle 800 kids,” Scharnhorst said. “Research shows that when you reach 800, you probably need to split and build another building.”

If the new elementary opened tomorrow, the superintendent said, “it would have 525 kids.”

New elementary classroom size, should the bond package pass, has not been determined.

“We haven’t reached the final design because the bond package is still in front of the voters,” Scharnhorst said. “We’ll get down to the nitty-gritty after the outcome.”

The current building is composed of several structures.

“It’s been added on to several times, and the infrastructure, such things as the library and cafeteria, has not been [expanded],” Scharnhorst said. “If we were to remain in the current building, we would need to look at Plan B or some serious renovations.”

A new facility would meet more modern safety conditions and more modern technology, the superintendent said.

“Everybody would be under one roof. From a security standpoint, that’s a plus. The current building was not set up for technology. We’ve done some good things in the present building by installing pole vault systems with a document camera and projector. They’ve been pretty popular with the kids.”

Roof air-conditioners, Scharnhorst said, “would need replacing in the near future. And this is what’s called a tilt-wall building. I think it’s about as energy efficient as it can be, but I don’t think energy efficiency was a top priority when it was built.”

If the bond passes, much of the current elementary school would become a parking lot, Scharnhorst said, adding that he understands the facility is important to Grandview citizens who attended school there.

“It occupies a special place in the hearts of people who’ve gone there,” he said. “In a community our size, a school involves a lot of generations. I’ve thought about ways we might preserve some of those memories. A time capsule might be a good idea. We’ll see what the pleasure of the voters is, and then we’ll get into the planning of what else to do.”

If the voters say no?

“I will get with the board, and we’ll have a planning session, and we’ll go from there,” the superintendent said. “We’re always going to do what’s best for the kids and the community.”

He said he understand the point of view of those who ask whether increased taxing and spending is smart in a downturn economy. A Web site laying out details for voters, grandview.huckabee-inc.com, says the average homeowner in the Grandview school district would pay an estimated $12.48 more per month in taxes.

“Those are very valid questions,” Scharnhorst said. “We’ve added a link on our school Web site that allows voters to see what the bond would do to their monthly bottom line. We hope that will help them answer any questions.”

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