Voter turnout in the Red Oak Independent School District doubled compared to last May’s election, with voters passing the $95 million bond proposition 1,036 to 489.

“We are very honored and humbled with the support shown by our parents, our staff and our community,” Red Oak ISD school board president John Hawkins said. “With the efforts that we put into getting the information out to the community, we just felt like if we supplied the community with the information, hopefully they would be able to become comfortable with supporting the plans that we had.”

In May of 2006, voters rejected a $90 million bond referendum proposed by the district, with 512 voting against the bond and 279 votes in favor of the bond.

After the failure of the 2006 bond, the Red Oak ISD school board of trustees rallied a committee of community members, creating the Red Oak ISD growth management committee.

Over the course of seven months, the committee met 12 times, discussing and researching everything from growth patterns and projected enrollment of the district over a period of 20 years, to preferred enrollments of all campuses and the cost of building new schools.

By November, the committee had comprehensive knowledge of the district’s current needs and future needs and proposed the $95 million bond proposition to the Red Oak ISD school board of trustees in December.

The bond will fund the purchase of land for a new high school and Shields Elementary School and the construction of a new high school and new Shields, as well as funds for maintenance improvements across the district, including remodeling the current Red Oak High School into the junior high campus and the current Red Oak Junior High into a second intermediate school.

The new Shields will accommodate up to 700 students at a cost of $15,685,063. The new Red Oak High School, at a cost of $72,582,652, will have a capacity of 2,400 students, with a core for 2,800 students. The new high school would include a ninth-grade center, fine arts center with seating for 1,200, agriculture building, competition tennis courts and baseball and softball fields, practice fields for soccer and football, a practice track and locker rooms for all sports. The CATE facility would remain at the current Red Oak High School as the district facility and Goodloe Stadium would remain the competition facility for football, soccer and track.

The package includes $6,752,000 dedicated for maintenance issues across the district. The total cost of the bond is $95,019,688. A 12 percent inflation rate was factored into the total price tag.

“It’s great — it’s what the PAC and the growth management committee after all their hard work deserve. The students of Red Oak are going to be proud of the schools they will have,” said Ernie Martinek, member of the growth management committee and the bond oversight committee, which will act as body of community representatives overseeing the bond projects. “We expected there to be a lot more voters — that was the goal of the PAC.”

While waiting for the results of the election to post, school board members, staff and administration in the district attended a “watch” party, which was also attended by Scott Niven, who will report as Red Oak ISD superintendent on June 5.

“It certainly is a good opportunity for the school and the community and it feels good to be coming to Red Oak because of the great community support for the schools. I’m very excited about the potential,” Niven said in a phone interview Monday. “I look forward to becoming a part of the community and continuing to move Red Oak forward and provide more opportunities for students.”

While currently serving as superintendent of Liberty-Eylau ISD in Texarkana, Niven plans to tackle the next steps for Red Oak ISD, including selling the bonds, laying out financial plans and discussing design and construction upon his arrival.

“The next step will be a two-fold process,” Niven said. “One will be beginning to develop the plans for the schools themselves, and that will be a effort between members of the school district, school board and community. We’ll also be putting into place a financial plan for actually selling the bonds and cash-flowing the projects.”

“He’s coming to Red Oak and we’re asking him to address several challenges and we want to be able to give him all the tools he needed to address those challenges. With the growth, facilities is definitely one of the issues he’ll have to address,” Hawkins said. “He’ll be back and forth between the (Liberty-Eylau Independent School District) and Red Oak until June 5, which will be his first day with Red Oak. We’ll let our current staff bring him up to date with all the work they have done on the bond, but we need to let Mr. Niven get comfortable with the plan and get up to date. Once he’s on board, we’ll move forward.”

The election saw the largest voter turnout in Red Oak ISD history.

“I just appreciate the support from the community — they’re putting the children of this district first,” said Karen Miller, Red Oak ISD public relations director.

Miller and Associate Superintendent of Operations Russ Schupmann spent much of the spring semester hosting meetings to provide information for voters on all aspects of the bond.

“I think with the growth in Red Oak they see the need and I do think they were informed this time. We just put it all on the table, what we need at Red Oak ISD to move forward,” Miller said, saying that increased polling places also contributed to increased voter turnout. “This time we had so many polling places - we tried to make it convenient for the voter. We had numerous voting places. Our early voting was encouraging.”

“There’s a great amount of relief, of joy and knowing that the people in this community overwhelmingly supported this bond issue. Now there’s a lot of excitement that we can build for our kids and do what is right for the community,” Schupmann said.

Schupmann said that bond money should be available during the summer.

“There’s a few things we need to do next. First we need to start the process of getting the bonds sold. We’re looking at $30 million bonds sold this summer. We’re expected to have money available by the middle of July. Then we will begin the serious process of planning the buildings.”

Schupmann said that Shields Elementary and Red Oak High School will create committees dedicated to working with the architects on the design of the respective schools, incorporating the needs and wants of school staff into the design concepts.

Schupmann said that the district would also prioritize the maintenance and renovations list.

“The third thing is prioritizing our maintenance projects to determine the order and what projects we can do ourselves and what projects to bid out,” Schupmann said.

Karen Stanfill, chairman of the PAC, said she and members of the PAC were relieved at the results of the election.

“There was some relief, of course. Everybody was thrilled that we were able to get the public’s support. I’m glad that people understood and recognized this is what the district needs,” Stanfill said. “I think with the combination of the PAC and the district, we were able to reach a lot more people so they understood the magnitude of what was needed.”

“We are very thankful to everyone that helped in getting the information out on the bond,” Hawkins said. “Russ Schupmann, Karen Miller, Debbie Temple and Wilburn Roesler — it’s amazing the amount of work they put into getting information out. The PAC, headed by Karen Stanfill, did a great job. Don Shields was out there plugging away. We appreciate his support in getting the word out about the bond.”

E-mail Mandy at mandy.bourgeois@elliscountychronicle.com.