Posted Date: 10/15/2020
October 15, 2020 – As the 2020-2021 school year gets underway, renovation and upgrades to schools across Amarillo ISD that are part of the 2017 $100 million bond are nearing completion. Though much of the work is hidden underground and within the walls, a closer look will show enhancements to school safety and security and improvements that are critical to maintaining the infrastructure of aging school buildings.
The $100 million bond, approved by voters in November 2017, focuses on four main areas of construction and renovation across the District: safety and security, facility updates, classroom additions, and restoration and replacement. The bond issue is funding work such as restroom renovations, new sewer lines and plumbing, drainage improvements, concrete work and window replacements, as well as classroom additions at a few schools to accommodate enrollment growth.
Ultimately, the bond work will touch all schools in the District except Bowie 6th Grade and Travis 6th Grade campuses, which are AISD’s newest schools. As of the start of the 2020-2021 school year, bond projects at about two-thirds of AISD schools are complete, and all bond construction is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2021.
Construction Work is On Schedule and On Budget
With the completion of the bond projects in sight, AISD Chief Financial Officer Pati Buchenau estimates about $3.7 million of bond funds will be left over. “When you count $4.1 million in interest earned, total funds available are over $104 million. When it’s all said and done, we’re expecting to spend $100,385,112 on the bond projects, leaving about $3.7 million left over,” she said.
In addition, the School Board voted in August to take advantage of favorable interest rates and refund, or refinance, some previous bonds. According to Buchenau, this can potentially save the District over $20 million and will help build capacity for future bond issues.
Despite some weather delays and other set-backs typical of construction projects, not to mention the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2017 bond projects are right on schedule. “COVID did not really allow construction to speed up after spring break because we didn’t know at first that schools would be closed for the remainder of the year,” said Cindy Ray, bond construction director. There were also some man power shortages and shipping delays on supplies and materials during the stay-at-home order, she said. “If anything though, the shut down allowed construction workers to catch up if projects were behind schedule.”
Projects at Two-thirds of Schools Are Complete
Bond projects at many of the District’s 55 campuses are essentially complete, and upgrades and improvements are visible inside and out. The auditoriums at Palo Duro, Tascosa and Amarillo high schools have been renovated and refurbished with new seating, acoustics and lighting, and Amarillo High now has a new third entrance to the auditorium that opens into the Commons. Work at these three high schools has also included sewer line and plumbing improvements, restroom renovations, site drainage work, and locker room shower and restroom work. In addition, the front of Tascosa’s campus received a face lift and new landscaping, Amarillo High’s courtyard has new concrete work, seating, and landscaping, and Palo Duro’s basement has been converted into classrooms.
A more extensive project, and one of the last major efforts of the bond work, is at Caprock High School. The construction project, which started over a year ago, includes the addition of classrooms to accommodate enrollment growth, as well as many improvements to an aging campus. The project will be completed this spring and includes: conversion of the Old Main gym facility into 12 classrooms and a choir room and construction of a new auxiliary gym facility, a new parking lot, an auditorium remodel similar to the other three high schools, renovations to restrooms and locker room showers and restrooms, plumbing/sewer line replacement, drainage improvements, some window replacements, and some new landscaping and improvements to the school’s entrance.
With the start of the new school year, construction and renovations are also complete at Allen 6th Grade Campus, Mann and Travis middle schools, the Amarillo Area Center for Advanced Learning, George Washington Carver Elementary Academy, George Washington Carver Early Childhood Academy, and Coronado, Eastridge, Hamlet, Humphrey’s Highland, Landergin, Lamar, Lawndale, Mesa Verde, Olsen Park, Paramount Terrace, Park Hills, Puckett, Rogers, Ridgecrest, Sanborn, South Lawn, Sunrise, Western Plateau, Whittier, Windsor, and Wills elementary schools. Improvements to these campuses include:
Significant improvements have been completed at Bonham Middle School, including a new sidewalk around a significant portion of the campus, a new parking lot in front, new windows, a new bus drop-off area, new landscaping at the school’s entrance, restroom renovations and renovations to locker room showers and restrooms, and plumbing/sewer line work.
First Major Renovation of Fannin Middle School in Six Decades
One of the most extensive projects has been at Fannin Middle School. This school had not seen a major renovation since it was built in 1957 and it needed significant upgrades and repairs, as well as more room to accommodate anticipated enrollment growth. The project is virtually complete and Fannin has over 19,000 square feet of new space, including 11 new classrooms, six of which can also serve as a storm shelter for the entire school. The campus also has a new science wing, renovations to the 100, 200, and 300 halls, a new parking lot, a new secured entrance with bullet resistant glass, a new library and renovated cafeteria and kitchen, restroom renovations and locker room restroom renovations, a refurbished courtyard and new landscaping, and a new office/administration area.
“The Fannin staff and students have been fantastic to work with,” said Les Hoyt, AISD bond program coordinator. “This project has been a major disruption for couple of years, but the campus took it in stride. Now this year, they can see the culmination of all the work. It’s a beautiful school.”
Remaining Projects to Finish by End of 2021
The remaining one-third of bond projects are in various stages of design or construction and are scheduled to be complete by the end of 2021. These projects include work at Austin, Bowie, de Zavala and Houston middle schools, North Heights Alternative School and Avondale, Belmar, Bivins, Emerson, Forest Hill, Glenwood, Oak Dale, Pleasant Valley, San Jacinto, South Georgia, Tradewind, Wolflin, and Woodlands elementary schools.
All of these schools will receive bullet resistant glass installation at the entrances and site drainage improvements. Austin, Crockett, Avondale, Belmar, Bivins, Glenwood and San Jacinto will get plumbing and sewer work, and Austin and Crockett will see restroom renovations and locker room shower and restroom renovations.
Sleepy Hollow Elementary is in the final stages of completion and is the fourth campus to receive additional classrooms as part of the bond election. Besides bullet resistant glass installation, drop-off and drainage improvements, and a library facelift and small expansion, Sleepy Hollow has a new four-classroom addition in the form of a new 5th grade pod and collaboration room to accommodate enrollment growth. The new 5th grade classrooms also serve as a storm shelter for the whole school.
The 2017 bond issue is impacting the average homeowner by about $4 per month or $48.02 per year. Five cents was added to the portion of the tax rate that is used to pay off long-term debt. For a relatively small increase in taxes, the Amarillo community is providing over $100 million worth of much needed safety and security upgrades, facility improvements, classroom additions and restoration and renovation to virtually all Amarillo ISD schools. The 2017 Bond improvements will go a long way toward positioning our school buildings to last well into the future.