Bond committee talks elementary, middle school priorities

Middle and elementary schools were the focus of Tuesday night’s bond committee meeting.

Members at each table reported out what their takeaways were from the information they received on number of students, use and condition.

Those attending noted the need for middle schools in different parts of town and the consensus was that new buildings were preferable to renovating.

There was a suggestion to turn Ector Middle School into a career and technical education center.

Attendees said Carver Early Education Center should be replaced, as should Bonham Middle School and portables should be eliminated.

Darrell Pearson, a partner with PBK, an architecture, engineering, planning, technology and facility consulting firm, said the average campus age in Ector County ISD is 51 years old.

Participants talked about whether new campuses were needed, major renovations/modernization or replacement of an existing campus.

Superintendent Scott Muri said last time a bond issue was considered, there were $700 million in needs. That was just to fix existing buildings, not build new ones.

“Those numbers have not been updated to 2021. That does not include any new school construction …,” Muri said.

The opportunity as a community is to figure out how much the community will tolerate for a bond issue.

The school district he came from had a 10-year bond cycle, Muri said. At Cypress-Fairbanks, a fast-growth district, they have a three-year bond cycle.

“We have growth in our community,” he said. “We also have significant needs … The needs of the school district will continue to grow over time and if we are not taking bites out of this elephant over time, we will end up where we are today which is a facility crisis.”

At a previous district they used facility age for replacement

As a community we have an opportunity to think about those options and what is right for children in Ector County, Muri said.

Asked what a good size for an elementary campus is, Muri said 500 is a good size, but it could go to 600 or 700 and be fine.

Some communities build larger schools because that’s what their community wants.

In ECISD today, Muri said, middle schools are at about the 1,000 student mark, or more. Nimitz Middle School has more than 1,400 students.

High schools run the gamut from 400 at the early college high schools to about 4,000 at Odessa and Permian high schools.


Other information

Acreage needed for elementary 10 to 15 acres; 25 to 30 acres for middle school and 60-plus for high schools.

The district’s projected enrollment is 32,730. Numbers fluctuate daily and they should be more accurate after Labor Day.

An elementary school for 850-900 students costs $30-$35 million to build.

A middle school for 1,200 students costs $55-$60 million and a high school for 2,500 students costs $145-$150 million.

Campuses that have the highest number of portable classrooms are the Alternative Center with 24; Crockett with 12; and Permian High School with 13.

Redistricting could solve some of the overcrowding issues at a select few campuses, but only temporarily, district information said.

How will building new schools help improvement required schools/academics. According to district information, access to modern facilities and equipment is one component of providing a world-class education to the children of ECISD that leads to high academic performance.

Other facilities were designed to support the form of instruction that was appropriate for the period. Narrow hallways, small classrooms and straight rows of desks addressed the needs of an educational environment that prepared students for a work force geared toward factories and assembly lines.

The job market of the 21st century has transformed significantly and requires a new set of skills and abilities to be successful.

Other information

Modern facilities can foster critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and collaboration. The tools and resources students and teachers use have also evolved. Technology is a critical component of the modern learning environment and older facilities are typically not equipped with the infrastructure necessary to support high-tech learning environments. When partnered with a great teacher and engaging curriculum, a modern facility designed around the needs of children does not hinder but rather fosters a healthy learning environment resulting in improved academic performance.

Some of the major renovations on campus that aren’t reflected in the data are architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire/life safety capacities.

Currently, the district is conducting a review of all its choice, or magnet schools. District information details it wants to expand the number of high quality options available to all children (including elementary students) by expanding or replicating highly sought after choice programs while redesigning less desirable choice schools to increase the number of students seeking enrollment.

The formal assessment of choice school programming is scheduled for completion in January 2022, which will allow time for community input, site visits, and a thorough results based quantitative analysis, the information states.

Currently there is only one middle school choice program, Ector College Prep.

“Our initial analysis of choice programming immediately identified a lack of middle school options as a significant deficiency. It is our hope that we will be able to add additional middle school choices in the not too distant future,” the information said.

But first, they must complete the review process.

“The information that we glean from that work will inform the decisions that we make surrounding middle school choice expansion over the next several years. One option that we have already begun researching is the potential of adding an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program to feed the high school IB program at Odessa High. We hope to find other strong options to add in the coming years as well,” the information stated.