Katy School District Bond Election Takes Center Stage as Early Voting Begins Next Week

By George Slaughter

Supporters and opponents of a Katy school bond package are reaching out to their allies as the issue goes before voters next week.

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, with approximate costs, include:

  • Component Replacements $52 million (9%).
  • Comprehensive Renovation: $21 million (3%).
  • Safety & Security Improvements: $17 million (3%).
  • School Expansions: $15 million (3%).
  • Technology: $32 million (5%).
  • Other (buses, portables, and fuel tanks): $24 million (4%).

The district said 61 schools are slated for work. Of these, the school receiving the most attention will be Fiedler Elementary, 2100 Greenway Village Dr. The school opened in 1993, and is slated for comprehensive renovation work estimated at $20.9 million.

On Monday, district Chief Operations Officer Lee Crews gave local media a campus tour, highlighting some of the areas that would be renovated. The school would upgrade its electrical and HVAC systems, along with its bathrooms.

The school would also get storage facilities for students, and other physical changes to enhance campus security.

Crews said classrooms learning spaces would be adapted to make them more in line with best practices around the district.

“We’re adapting some of learning spaces to move them into kind of a 21st Century learning model,” Crews said. “What we’ve found is, the business world would really like us to build collaboration and communication skills with students, and some of the learning spaces that we have in this building are not quite conducive to that. We’ll be looking at designs for buildings and modeling some of the learning spaces put into our new campuses into Fielder Elementary. It really is about equity for our students.”

No tax increases will come about because of the bond.

“As a taxpayer myself I can completely understand why people would be concerned about the tax rate,” Crews said. “We are projecting a no impact, a zero impact on the tax rate for this bond.”

The district has 77,500 students enrolled right now, with a 100,000-student enrollment projected in the future in the next eight to 10 years. The district has averaged 2,800 new students per year for the last five years, he said.

“We’re constantly growing,” Crews said.

Lisa Kassman, the district’s executive director of facilities and planning, said the bulk of the construction activities—such as at Fielder Elementary—would take place during the summer months. Some vendors deliver supplies in the spring, she said, and the goal is to have the project ready by the end of July.

One issue critics have raised is whether it would be wiser to vote no on the bond, in order consider the impact of the recent hurricane to the local tax base and what that would mean in terms of enrollment.

Asked to respond to this concern, Crews said he thought the critics are concerned with the number of students in the district.

“I would say our number of students are right in line with projections,” he said. “We did not lose students because of the hurricane. We actually probably came back with a few more. Every day it looks like our enrollment is going up.”

Some development, such as in Cross Creek and Ellison, were not affected by the hurricane and those areas are growing. The elementary schools are going in the Cross Creek area, Crews said.

Some critics have also questioned the need for a new high school, suggesting that the district instead redraw the attendance zones. The district currently has eight high schools, with the most recent, Paetow, having opened in August.

To this concern, Crews said, the number of seats is very limited.

“I think you’d have to start on east end of district and rezone all the way to the west,” Crews said. “I think you’d find that a lot of people are very entrenched in their school environment.”

Crews also said that he thought simply rezoning would be a short-term fix, given the district’s growth.

“If you look at 2,800 (new) students a year, well, that might hold you for a year, but then you’d have to come back and do it again,” he said, adding that some high schools have enrollments above their capacity.

“You have to come in and build new buildings if you’re going to go from 77,500 students to 100,000 students in the next eight to 10 years,” he said.

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.

“We feel it’s important for the community’s voice to be heard,” Crews said.