The Waxahachie ISD board of trustees approved construction contracts for a new elementary and a new sixth-grade school Monday night.

Also approved were parking lot improvements at Marvin Elementary and the high school, and flatwork at Dunaway Elementary.

Total amount approved for the contracts was $26,743,653.83, with the following breakout:

elementary school - $12,295,000 sixth-grade school - $13,914,300 Marvin parking lot improvements - $362,000 high school parking lot improvements - $134,353.83 Dunaway flatwork - $38,000

The new facilities and improvements were part of a $59.25 million bond package approved by voters in November.

The new elementary school, which will be located north of U.S. Highway 287, will serve grades one through five, with a capacity of 650 students. The bond had included $13,112,998 toward the school’s costs.

The new sixth-grade center, which will be located on Parks School House Road, will have a capacity of 750 students. The bond had included $16,639,891 toward the school’s costs.

The bond had budgeted $358,361 for the Marvin parking lot improvements, including new drives and 50 new spaces; $295,823 toward parking lot improvements at the high school; and $148,599 for improvements at Dunaway.

The new schools will open in August 2008.

In other business, the board approved a three-year contract with Fort Worth-based Faulk Company for custodial services, which is expected to be a cost-saving measure for WISD.

The district will retain 13 employees whose positions will not be replaced as they retire or leave the district’s employ. Instead, the company will add additional contract positions as those occur.

Although the total amount of the contract will see some fluctuation as campuses are added or employees leave, the per-square-foot price of $1.098 is firm for the three-year term of the contract, executive director of support services Lynn Marshall said, noting opt-out provisions have been included if needed.

Graduation will be held Thursday, May 24, at Potter’s House, with Deputy Superintendent David Truitt saying the district is looking at relocating its ceremony to another location next year.

The rental fee has been greatly increased, and Potter’s House also has been “bumping” smaller districts in favor of larger districts with more than one high school, he said, noting the WISD graduation was given a less-preferred Thursday night.

During open forum, two people spoke on behalf of students who will not be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony due to their not passing all parts of the state-required TAKS exam.

Each said they felt the students had earned the right to walk across the stage as a reflection of having attended 13 years of school, with one suggesting the district consider letting the students sign an affidavit they would return in June to retake the TAKS exam.

Both noted the impact on the student as well as his or her family and friends who had supported them through school in hopes of seeing them graduate.

“Consider how you would feel if you were in this situation,” one woman said, with the other noting, “One in six students in Texas is not graduating. … This is everything to this 18-year-old, and if there are 25 students in this district that didn’t pass, then something is wrong.”

Under the open forum part of the agenda, the board is not allowed to respond to any comments made.

Updates on Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy and the district’s preliminary TAKS scores were given, with executive director of curriculum Judy Brewster noting improvement in many areas, particularly at the freshman level.

There is still much work to be done, particularly in the areas of math and science, and in subgroups counted by the Texas Education Agency, she said.

The Ninth Grade Academy has a chance at being named a recognized campus for the 2006-2007 school year by the TEA, she said, noting the serious improvement seen at the campus, which was rated academically unacceptable the year before.

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com