As the largest school system in one of the nation’s largest states, the Houston Independent School District has more than 200,000 students in 279 schools. Keeping those facilities in good shape in the nation’s seventh-largest district is a costly effort.
In November, just five years after winning approval of what was then the largest bond proposal for a Texas K-12 system—a $805 million request—the district is asking voters to authorize $1.89 billion in bond spending to upgrade facilities.
Previous bond efforts had focused primarily on elementary schools, and by this year the average age of Houston’s high schools had grown to 50 years old. The age and declining condition of those facilities persuaded the district to emphasize high school building improvements in the 2012 proposal. The bond request calls for spending $1.36 billion on high schools: 20 campuses would be replaced; another four would be partially replaced, and four more would be renovated.
“We need buildings designed to promote 21st century learning,” Superintendent Terry Grier says on his blog. “High schools built 50, 60, and 70 years ago simply do not meet the needs of today's children.”<</p>
The remainder of the bond package would include funds for converting five elementary schools to K-12 campuses; build three new elementary schools; build one middle school; complete construction of another middle school; and carry out technology improvements throughout the district.
As it gears up for the new bond election, the Houston district is completing the projects that voters approved in the 2007 referendum. Twenty schools, most of them elementary campuses, have been built, and another three are under construction. Renovations and repairs have been completed at 135 schools, and 45 improvement projects are still in the works. Part of the $805 million also went to install security fences at 92 campuses and install more 8,700 security cameras at schools.