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Ennis to ask taxpayers to vote on school bond

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The Ellis County Press

ENNIS - Taxpayers will be asked to pass another bond election in the spring after recommendations from the school district's facilities growth review committee discovered many Ennis schools are overcrowded.

Made up of Ennis residents and school representatives, the committee was divided into sub-committees to review the district's current and projected needs.

The three sub-committees - elementary, junior high (including the intermediate schools) and high school - were responsible for looking at what improvements each of the schools needed.

Committee Chairperson Cindy Hellstern said committee members tried to make suggestions to try to solve the schools' overcrowding problems for the next 15 to 20 years, not just four to five years.

A final report sent to district officials by the committee stated most of the campuses were currently operating at or above capacity, using every classroom and portable available.

'Continued growth at the current level is creating an immediate and critical need for additional school facilities,' the report stated.

'For the last few years, growth in every grade level has been exceeding previous projections.'

A 9th - 10th grade center would be built on the existing acreage next to the current high school to ease the overcrowding and allow for additional student body growth.

By being built next door to the high school, the center would be able to utilize the vocational building, athletic facilities and band facilities already in use at the high school campus.

Hellstern said Ennis Junior High was 'a unique facility,' because the campus is so spread throughout many buildings.

Recommendations from the sub-committee stated if a new junior high was constructed on the same property as the current building, students could use the existing vocational building and athletic facilities.

Due to the historical value of the junior high, committee members suggested the city and school district work in conjunction to renovate the building to be used as a museum or new administration building.

EISD Superintendent Mike Harper said the junior high was currently over its capacity with about 880 students being enrolled.

The report stated the school would not be able to handle the increased number of students expected to enroll within the next few years.

'The junior high and high school needs are immediate,' Harper said.

Enough elementary and intermediate schools were built four years ago to handle the anticipated growth.

Harper said a new elementary school would need to be built in about five years to keep up with the rising number of students enrolling in the district.

The new schools could be ready to house students within 18 to 24 months after the bond election is passed, the superintendent said.

Under state law school districts cannot legally promote a bond election.

Glen Hyde, EISD communications director, said the district recently hired Southwest Securities to determine how much the district would need to raise in a bond election to build the schools recommended by the facilities committee.

He said Southwest Securities would review the committee recommendations and the architectural drawings to determine the bond amount.

Four years ago Ennis voters approved a $48.1 million bond to build two new campuses, renovated old air conditioning units at two schools and purchase three acres of land to expand the transportation and maintenance department.

New facilities included the athletic complex, the early education center and a sixth grade center. A new wing was built onto Travis Elementary and a building was constructed behind the high school to offer auto repair and auto shop classes.

Harper said the district would again use S.H.W. Architects, who designed the drawings for the athletic complex, sixth grade center and the early education center during the last bond election.

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Nelson Propane

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