Architects Frank Callahan and Chuck Freeman recently told Keene ISD that the Texas Department of Transportation will not help remove the hill blocking the high school.
Superintendent Ricky Stephens said part of the master plan for the school district is to remove the large hill on the south end of the high school campus adjacent to U.S. 67.
“The benefit of removing that hill is you actually get to see the high school that it completely blocks, you can’t see it,” Stephens said.
Not only does the hill block the high school but its six acres is needed for a new baseball and softball field as the district plans to expand its athletic programs.
The Keene High School baseball team is set to begin its inaugural season with home games played at Bainum Field at Southwestern Adventist University, while the softball team plays home games at Elisa Carver Park, Stephens said.
Stephens said the district was hoping that TxDOT would help remove the hill in return for using the dirt on the new eastbound lanes of U.S. 67.
However, Stephens said the architects said they would need most of the dirt from the hill for the baseball and softball field they plan to put on the property. Also, Stephens said, the hill is basically “a big ball of clay,” so TxDOT doesn’t want to use it.
Stephens said the district has money saved every year and that is how they plan to pay for the new addition.
The addition of classrooms at Keene Elementary School finished in December cost the district $633,000, which was paid for with saved funds from prior years dedicated to construction.
The recently installed bleachers that seat 1,300 at the track facility cost $193,300 and was paid with residual construction funds and prior years fund balances.
The site surveys, soil testing, drainage and utility studies and master planning work by consultants cost $69,350 and was paid with the current fund balance.
“We currently have about $500,000 in funding available for future construction and we anticipate adding to that amount at the end of this fiscal year — Aug. 31 — through savings in this year’s budget,” KISD Chief Financial Officer Walt Pfeifer said. “KISD intends to pay cash for all future projects as we are able to save money each year.”
Pfeifer said future projects may spread out over five years as funding becomes available and they will be done in order of importance.
Future projects include redistribution of soil from the hill east of the high school to level the property for future building projects, a field house and parking lot, a new gym entrance at the high school, possible baseball and softball fields and a possible new administration building.