Galveston School District Needs $352M to Upgrade Facilities
Feature Photo (above): Rebecca Trout Unbehagen speaks before the GISD Board of Trustees at the June 19 session. Courtesy: GISD.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Galveston (Galveston County) — The Galveston Independent School District kicked off its summer deliberations with the news that it will take about $352 million to modernize its aging school facilities.
The Board of Trustees has a few months to refine its priorities and come to a decision, but in all likelihood they will be putting a bond proposition before the voters this November and the price tag will be somewhere in the $300 million-plus range.
The good news is there appears to be consensus that the City of Galveston really, really needs a new high school. Founded in 1887, Ball High School is one of the state’s oldest. The existing facility was built in 1952 and it went through eight additions and renovations from 1964 to 2005.
Following a presentation with recommendations from the Champion Advisory Committee, Trustee Johnny Smecca said, “I am so excited that members of the community want a new high school. It is something that has been frustrating for me ever since 1992 when the bond issue failed. During this process, though, I don’t feel we’ve looked as close as where to build the new high school.”
Aerial view of the Ball High School campus. Lower left inset is view of the high school’s main entrance. Images: Google Streets.
The committee recommendation for Ball High, as stated in their June 19 presentation, was that the existing facility be demolished after a new high school is constructed at Scott Middle School, which would also be torn down to make room for a new campus.
The Champion Advisory Committee was comprised of 76 members of the community and included several trustees of the GISD Board. The presentation was delivered by David Lang, a maintenance manager in the Business Operations & Facilities department of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and by Rebecca Trout Unbehagen, UTMB’s executive director for community engagement.
The Houston office of PBK Architects Inc. assisted the committee by assessing the district’s existing facilities.
“The facility condition index or the ratio of cost to repair versus cost to replace was calculated for every campus,” Unbehagen said. “Of our 13 schools, only one, Crenshaw which was built in 2005, received a rating of Very Good on a scale of Excellent to Poor.
“We had two average campuses, Austin and Weiss, and the remaining received a rating of Poor–noting that the cost to repair major shortcomings at each of these 10 facilities would exceed 60% or more of the cost to replace the building. This should come as no surprise to a school district where the average age of schools is 54 years old,” Unbehagen said.
Lang divided the committee’s recommendations into three phases. However, the work of Phase I is already in progress and being financed with about $31 million made available through a previously approved bond issue.
Phase II refers to work needed on the district’s middle schools and the new high school. Phase III refers to how to address the elementary schools. Galveston ISD has had stagnant enrollment due to families emigrating away from the district, principally because rising property values have forced families to search out more affordable communities.
Over the next nine years, the projection for moderate growth states enrollment was increase by less than 500 students. Therefore, the focus is on replacing aged-out existing facilities, and consolidating students into new or upgraded schools.
Image is courtesy of GISD.
In Phase II, in addition to the demolition of Ball High and Scott Middle, Central Middle School would become a 7th and 8th grade school, which will require remodeling.
“Weiss Middle School becomes the 5th and 6th grade school,” Lang said. This will entail remodeling and the addition of five classrooms to meet the size of the student body.
“Austin Middle School will not be needed,” Lang said. “It will sit vacant until the Board decides what to do with it.”
The price tag for Phase II is approximately $259 million.
Phase III should begin with the construction of a new elementary school, Land continued.
“In doing this, we can remove two of our older, outdated schools We recommend selling Rosenberg and Morgan (Magnet), by either demolishing and selling or selling as-is,” he said.
Alamo Elementary would also be removed from the school district’s inventory. The remaining elementary schools–Burnet, Crenshaw, Oppe and Parker–would undergo renovations.
The price tag for Phase II is approximately $93 million.
Board of Trustees President Anthony Brown called the committee’s recommendation a first step.
“There will be a long process going through this. There will be plenty of opportunity, going forward, to talk in more detail regarding the components of this proposal,” Brown said.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.