• December 6, 2019

Compass Academy to start construction on Phase II - Odessa American: ECISD

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Compass Academy to start construction on Phase II

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Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2019 3:30 am

Compass Academy Charter School is poised to start construction on the second phase of its building at 5530 Billy Hext Road.

The 59,000-square-foot addition will house boys and girls physical education, an athletics section and fine arts with band, orchestra and choir. A commons lunch area, partially indoors and partially outdoors, will be another feature.

Interim Superintendent Kathy Killingsworth said bonds were sold last week at a rate of 2.96 percent on a 30-year rate, “which is spectacular for our school.”

“We’re excited about providing other extracurricular opportunities for our students. Also this year, we’re going to be involved in UIL academic competition which will be an addition for our students at Compass,” Killingsworth said. “We’re wanting to expand their participation in all different levels of extracurricular and we think that this piece is critical to maintain student interest, as well.

Compass also offers football, volleyball, cross country, track and golf. Killingsworth said they will be participating in UIL next year for those sports, as well as UIL academics.

The architect for Phase II is JSA and the contractor is Cooper Construction.

“We’ll close next week and then construction should start” soon after, Killingsworth said.

Construction is expected to take 18 months and cost about $16 million.

Killingsworth said there are currently 1,236 kindergarten through 10th grade students at Compass. The school’s charter was amended to accommodate up to 1,600.

Killingsworth said there are 990 on the waiting list. The majority of students come from Ector County with some from Midland.

An eight-classroom portable building was added to accommodate 10th grade and another one will be added this year to accommodate 11th grade next year.

“We’re adding a grade level each year, so we’ll bring on 11th grade next year and then 12th grade, so we’re growing,” Killingsworth said.

The third phase will be a two-story junior high and high school with office space. Killingsworth said the funding will probably be a combination of generating local funds as well as possibly some bond funds.

She said there is no timeline at this point for construction on the junior high and high school because Phase II still has to be built.

“We would like to raise as much as we can locally, but we’re estimating Phase 3 will cost about $17 million …,” Killingsworth said.

There are about 120 staff members at Compass right now.

“We are fully staffed. One exciting thing about Compass this year is we’re bringing on the addition of Social Security, so we’re implementing that as a … dual retirement benefit for our employees. We did that under a Section 218 agreement with the IRS. It’s a real benefit for our employees and I did this in my former school district, so it works there will not be a pension offset when they retire,” Killingsworth said.

Kenny Comstock, Compass board president, said Killingsworth has expertise in finance, along with 18 years as a superintendent in Terlingua.

“We’re actually backed by the Permanent School Fund. We have a Triple A investment grade rating which very few charter schools in the state have,” Killinsgworth said.

She said the school also has the option to refinance its current building in two years.

“I would say we’re aggressively pursuing Phase 3 (the junior high and high school) as maintaining that financial position facilitates,” Comstock said. “We want to maintain financial health and maintain the standards of education, all those things that are important and what makes Compass a desirable place to be. But at the same time, we want to provide that same product for as many kids as we can with the same quality that we’ve been able to accomplish and the financial piece.”

The board has been divided into a group of teams and one is strategic planning, Comstock said.

“That team will be tasked with providing options to the board, to answer … those questions (of) how do we meet both of those goals, maintain our financial integrity, maintain our educational integrity and still meet the needs of the community. That’s what Compass is about. That’s what it was started for — to contribute to a growing need in our community. Compass is not the solution, but we have a big part in the solution,” he added.

Killingsworth added that Compass has great parental involvement.

“We believe that if you hold people to a higher standard, they’ll meet it, and we’ve held our students to a higher standard and our parents. They’ve both met it and exceeded (it). It’s been a big part the formula to success at Compass,” Comstock said.

Along with the athletics, Killingsworth said Compass is working on an agreement with Odessa College to provide dual credit courses to students next year.

“We want our students to have the same opportunities they would in other schools, or more. We’re real strong in academics and I think the extracurriculars is the piece that keeps students engaged,” she said.

Comstock noted that Compass is not a private school. Parents don’t pay for their children to attend it.

“We’re subject to a lottery system, which means we don’t pick our students while a parent does have to apply to be in Compass, we don’t get to pick the best students. We’re not picking our students, but they’re still performing well,” Comstock said.

He added that this goes back to setting high expectations for parents and students.

To a degree, Comstock said TEA requires the school to operate more efficiently in order to be successful.

“We have no property tax, so all of our funding basically comes from TEA (the Texas Education Agency) and we have to manage and pay for all our debt out of that funding because we can’t do a bond issue based on property tax,” Killingsworth said. “We have no taxing authority at all …”

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