By George Slaughter
Katy Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt spoke in favor of a school bond proposal before voters and praised recent faculty and student achievements at a “State of the District 2017” breakfast event Wednesday morning.
The achievements included how district faculty, staff, and students dealt with Hurricane Harvey. The area received 52 inches of rain in four days, he said, and 15,000 students were impacted.
Creech Elementary School, 5905 S. Mason Road, was most severely hit, taking on four feet of flood water. Hindt praised the University of Houston and its chancellor, Dr. Renu Khator, for working with the district to move Creech Elementary faculty and students to the University of Houston Cinco Ranch campus, 4242 S. Mason Road, for the year.
Hindt said the district has spent approximately $17 million to date on repairs from hurricane damage.
Enrollment continues to grow. Hindt said that before the storm, the enrollment was 77,233 students. Enrollment has since grown to approximately 77,580 students. Enrollment is expected to be approximately 100,000 students by 2026.
The bond is worth $609 million. Of this, approximately $449 million, or 74%, is for six new schools—one high school, two junior high schools, and three elementary schools. Other items covered include component replacements, comprehensive renovation, safety and security improvements, school expansions, technology, and other expenses, such as replacing fuel tanks at the school bus depot.
The district said 61 schools are slated for work.
Hindt said he hears two key concerns about the bond issue and wanted to address them both. The first concern was, why not delay the bond issue following the hurricane?
Hindt’s response was that the district cannot delay 2,800-3,000 students enrolling here every year. Also, he said, it would be an additional $50 million in inflationary costs for the same bond.
The most expensive item on the bond is a new high school. The other concern Hindt said he hears was, why not simply rezone the high school attendance areas?
Hindt said rezoning would require another rezoning effort in three to four years, with another one needed later on. He said it was not in the best interest of the school district to rezone like that.
Overcrowding was not okay, he said.
“It’s not safe, and it’s not conducive to educational quality,” he said.
Hindt was the keynote speaker, but he was not the only speaker at the event.
Jeff W. Roberts, mayor of Fulshear, said the growth there has “skyrocketed” over the past two years. He said that the three factors people consider when moving to a town are school, safety, and the value of property.
Much of the City of Fulshear and the suburban development there falls within the Katy ISD boundaries. Many of the students there attend Seven Lakes High School, 9251 S. Fry Road, which Roberts described as a hub for communities and growth.
“Schools are a huge marketing tool for our development,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he’s excited about new ventures taking place.
“You have to plan strategically for the future,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that Katy isn’t the only school district with a bond issue on the ballot this year to address growth issues. Part of Fulshear falls within the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, which also has a bond issue before voters this year. Roberts said his wife, Melisa, serves as a trustee and has perspective on the importance of the bond elections through her experiences there.
Durran Dowdle, mayor pro tem for the City of Katy, praised the school board.
“They’re looking down the road,” Dowdle said. “The city does the same thing. They’re wanting to provide for the future, and not just today.”
Hurricane Harvey and its aftereffects have changed the way we look at things, Dowdle said, but the plan is still solvent.
“Things are moving at a rapid pace,” Dowdle said. “We have to move rapidly also.”
Other featured speakers included Rick Ellis, vice president of the Katy Area Economic Development Council and Ann Hodge, president of the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce. Ellis described some projects his organization has been involved with to promote local economic growth. Hodge spoke about the importance of partnership in community growth and development.
For a map of present and proposed schools, see the map on the Katy ISD web site.
For a list of renovations by campus, see the campus renovations page on the Katy ISD web site.
Early voting begins Monday, October 23 and runs through Friday, November 3. Polling day is Tuesday, November 7. For a list of polling locations, see the voter information page on the Katy ISD web site.