Leander ISD Board Reviews Options After Bond Proposals Fail


Leander ISD voters approved one of three proposals in the November 2 bond election. (Taylor Girtman / Community Impact Journal)

Following the failure of two Leander ISD bond proposals, district staff and board members discussed next steps for the district on November 18.

Leander ISD voters approved one of three proposals in the November 2 bond election. Proposal A failed by 215 votes to have funded $ 727.2 million for the construction and renovation of schools. The $ 33.3 million C proposal failed about 3% and would have funded lighting and sound upgrades for high school performing arts centers.

Proposal B for the replacement of the technology was approved with 52% of the votes. However, part of the proposal, which funded interactive panels to replace projectors, required infrastructure within failed Proposal A.

The district’s new growth forecasts show rapid student growth and an increase in housing developments in LISD, and the district is expected to build six elementary schools, a middle school and a high school over the next 10 years. The number of schools needed to meet growth over the next 10 years remains the same compared to projections for 2020.

At the November 18 school board meeting, Superintendent Bruce Gearing said next steps could include district zoning changes, the use of laptops and calling another bail election. LISD will have a voter survey completed that will determine why voters voted the way they did, and that information will be presented to the board, possibly at the December 16 meeting.

The deadline to call an election in May 2022 is February 18 and the deadline to call an election in November 2022 is August 22. But Gearing said the timeline for calling an election in May would not allow the district to get the community to listen. want before triggering a new bond election. He said it would take conversations about rezoning attendance, transferable locations and the political implications of a bond election in May or November.

“We have to really pay attention to our voting public, and we have to listen to what they want. But if we don’t have the time to do it, maybe now is not the right time, ”said Gearing. “On the other side, we have pressure from the facilities. We know these students are coming to the district and how are we going to respond to them. “

Short term effects

To accommodate student growth, the district is expected to open three elementary schools over the next two school years. Elementary School # 29 did not need 2021 Bond funding, but Elementary Schools # 30 and # 31 relied on 2021 Bond funding.

The failure of Proposal A included the construction of four elementary schools. One school cost $ 5 million in bond due to savings from the 2017 bond. Gearing said there may be other ways to fund the school’s remaining needs so construction can continue. .

Elementary School No.30 or Elementary School No.31 could be funded with around $ 5 million in alternative funding, but the other school would remain unfunded for now, Gearing said.

“The timing on this is important because we should really start designing and planning the construction of these two elementary schools very soon,” Gearing said. “Otherwise, the opening in 2023 is compromised.

These schools are planned in the Ranch at Brushy Creek neighborhood in Cedar Park or in the Travisso neighborhood in Leander, although the locations are unconfirmed.

Facilities manager Jimmy Disler said that unless funding is secured by the end of May, the opening of the second elementary school on time in 2022 will be canceled. If a May 2022 bond is called and passes, the school would only have about 15 months to build. Disler said it takes 18 to 24 months to build a school with current construction delays.

“If we are looking for a school in August 23, we must be in [the design phase] and about to be under construction right now, ”Disler said.

One short-term solution is to add laptops to overcrowded schools that would otherwise be relieved by opening a new school. Elementary School # 30 would relieve Akin and Rutledge Elementary Schools. Elementary School # 31 would fall under Mason Elementary School.

Rezoning talks

Council members also discussed the possibility of changing the zoning of elementary schools in the district to make better use of existing facilities.

Board member Elexis Grimes said that while some schools lack capacity in the northern part of the district, some schools in the southern end have remained under capacity.

“I think zoning is a really, really real conversation that’s going to take place, and it has to happen,” Grimes said.

Board member Anna Smith said she supports a district-wide zoning change for early childhood, elementary, high school and high school students. She said now is the perfect opportunity.

“I know it won’t make people happy, but voters have spoken… we have facilities that need to be used, and I think we [can] be creative, ”Smith said.

However, board member Sade Fashokun said she was concerned about rezoning in the northern Leander quarters as some students have been dezoned multiple times.

“The continuous rezoning is so disruptive,” Fashokun said.

community disagreement

Between two LISD voter surveys in July and October, the district experienced a decline in bond approval and positive impressions from the district.

In July, 47% of poll respondents said they would vote for a bond proposal, although it was not the last bond package called by the board. In October, the number of respondents fell to 41%, with 46% of voters voting against Proposition A. This was a 7% increase in the number of respondents to the survey against the principal bond proposal.

In addition, there was an 8% increase in respondents who said they had a “negative impression” of LISD. A majority of those surveyed said this was due to curriculum issues, and 23% said they had a negative impression for reasons related to COVID-19.

Board member Aaron Johnson said the district saw a “significant deterioration” in community confidence in the district and its leaders over 90 days.

“We didn’t just see the bond election, the bond issue failed. We have seen a significant deterioration in trust in the district and in the district leadership in about 90 days, ”said Johnson. “This team of eight people, I think we have to assume it. In a 90-day period, it was not just a concern about the language of the ballot initiation. It was about us. It was about the product that we deliver to the community or the perception of that product.

Board member Gonzales-Dholakia said she feels the board has gotten lost in disagreements such as the mask’s mandate, but the intentions of board members are to do what’s best for students even s ‘They don’t agree on how to get there.

“We were part of the reason people lost faith, and I think we have the ability to bring back a lot of that by just showing that intentionality.” [for] our students and our teachers, and our schools, ”said Gonzales-Dholakia.


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