Thursday, November 26, 2020

School Board, Capital Needs Committee Hold Workshop

The Carroll Independent School District Board of Trustees hosted a special workshop recently to hear updates on the work of a 40-member Capital Needs Planning Committee that began meeting last fall.

The CNPC is made up of parent/taxpayers and school employees, and has been meeting with the CISD Administration regularly for the last six months to address potential needs for the district in areas pertaining to technology, maintenance, transportation, security and safety, capital improvements and building use, and extracurricular and co-curricular activities. The April 18 workshop with the School Board served as an unofficial update for Trustees before a more formal CNPC recommendation is made June 6.

CISD Teacher Mark Pedroza kicked off the evening by discussing the work of the Technology Subcommittee. Pedroza co-chairs the Technology Subcommittee along with CISD parent/taxpayer Rebecca Hindman. Members of the Tech Subcommittee have been evaluating the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program facilities, and the relevant spaces and equipment for CISD’s growing STEM student enrollment. The Technology Subcommittee has also prioritized staffing, infrastructure, devices, presentation tools, STEM facilities, language labs, fine arts/gym/cafe sound, and furniture as part of their districtwide assessment. Currently, the district implements a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) philosophy, which can put teachers at a disadvantage spending time managing different student devices during class time. Carroll ISD’s Strategic Plan calls for a 1:1 technology solution, which calls for one device per student. Plans being studied involve iPads at the elementary grade levels and laptops in the upper grades. The CNPC will continue studying how and when to best implement the 1:1 plan.

Speaking on behalf of the Extracurricular/Co-curricular Subcommittee was Co-chair Bill Webb, who explained the subcommittee’s focus on existing and potential facilities for Fine Arts, Athletics and Co-curricular programs in Carroll ISD. This particular subcommittee, also led by CISD Band Director Ken Johnson, spent some time touring both Carroll ISD facilities as well as the facilities of neighboring school districts, some of which have been built in very recent years. CISD has a significant portion of the student population participating in extracurricular and co-curricular programs. Particular areas of focus included updates to the Aquatics Center, Carroll Senior High School Auditorium and athletic facilities, as well as potential new construction to provide a competitive and safe environment for students.

The Subcommittee for Maintenance, Transportation, Safety & Security has spent time over the last few months touring facilities, studying mechanical, electrical and plumbing reports, and learning about the current status of the Carroll bus fleet. Subcommittee Chairman John Reynal is a CISD parent and taxpayer. He said the subcommittee’s project list includes roofs, carpet, paint, playground surfaces, HVAC systems, and buses throughout the district. The group has been working with consultants to consider ongoing maintenance solutions, cost-cutting operational ideas and security options. They have also been looking at the aging bus fleet, the current bus types/fuel options and a possible multi-year purchase plan to help ensure safety. This goes hand in hand with the district-conducted employee and parent safety surveys that will be issued this month as part of the CISD Strategic Plan.

The Capital Improvements/Building Use Subcommittee have been studying capital projects including 10-20 classroom wings at Old Union Elementary as well as bigger gyms, canopies at campuses, and improved acoustics. The subcommittee, chaired by parent/taxpayer Hyke Link and CISD Librarian Chad McCoy, reviewed additional classroom space for STEM, a reconfigured cafeteria for Carroll Senior High, as well as other projects. Two of the biggest issues under consideration by this subcommittee are a future home for the CISD preschool program, and additional K-4 classroom space to accommodate student growth. The three top options being studied as a solution to elementary classroom needs are additions to each of the existing schools, a sixth elementary, or a reconfiguration of grade levels housed in each CISD building. The operational costs play a significant role in some options, and the future growth of the preschool program will also be taken into consideration in each option.

CNPC Co-chairs Todd Carlton and Annie Zvonecek were present at the workshop; Carlton represents the south feeder system for CISD and Zvonecek the north feeder system. They have been leading the work of the CNPC since last September in an effort to develop a recommendation for the CISD Board and Administration.

During the April 18 workshop discussion Zvonecek asked the Board of Trustees about the possibility of reconfiguring the current grade levels in existing schools, as that remains an option the CNPC is evaluating. Carroll ISD’s growth management plan always called for six elementary schools, but school funding issues in Texas greatly affected that plan. School Board Trustees shared concerns about the operating budget deficit while recognizing some new construction will be necessary to address enrollment issues within the district. They said short-term options and grade reconfigurations are still part of the ongoing discussion.

The Capital Needs Planning Committee will continue its work in May, hoping to reach consensus on an overall recommendation for the Board of Trustees June 6.