ITALY — Improvements, additions and a lot more construction are the three things you will find on the agenda for Italy ISD in 2017. In May of 2015, a $12 million bond was passed to begin phase one of a hopeful two-phase improvement project and the fruits of those funds are starting to show.

In the time since, Phase II of the bond project has also been approved, making the excitement even harder to contain for Italy ISD Superintendent Lee Joffre, the district as a whole and city residents.

As previously reported by the WDL, “According to Joffre, Phase one will include an addition, remodel and improvements to Stafford Elementary, along with a new agriculture science building at the high school and a new football field — complete with turf and an eight-lane track.”

Though the construction is not set to conclude until March 2018, much of the project will be completed by the 2017-18 school year.

“We expect the 30,000 square feet of additions at Stafford Elementary to be complete by March of 2018. The addition will house ten new classrooms, two new science labs, two new computer labs and a new library and media center,” Joffre explained. “ It will also have a new office area for the campus administration team as well as the nurse. That area was part of the old wing that was taken down.”

He noted that, as with any elementary school, Stafford is the foundation of students’ education.

"It was important to the district to ensure that our young learners are provided state-of-the-art facilities to improve their learning environment. The addition of the media center, science labs, and computer labs should help our teachers provide innovative learning opportunities for our students,” Joffre said.

Phase II of the bond project was approved by the IISD Board of Trustees in November after a review of the financial projections by First Southwest Securities and local enrollment trends. This phase includes a 16,000 square foot cafeteria with a UIL competition stage for theater and band programs.

"Our junior high and high school students currently have a cafeteria that is about 3,200 square feet. The theater and band practice on a stage that is about half the size of a regular stage,” Joffre said. “This addition will provide a better venue for our students to eat and help improve our Fine Arts programs. The facility will also be available for use by community groups."

Completion of the new 5,000-square-foot agriculture shop is expected for the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. It also entails two classrooms.

"We have successful agriculture and welding programs that have grown over the last few years. Many of our students raise and show livestock. We also have several students who participate in our welding certification program through Navarro College," Joffre stated. "The two classrooms and shop will be a great addition to our program that already has two livestock barns that are approximately 13,000 square feet combined."

The superintendent is hopeful that the new football stadium will be complete before the Class of 2017 crosses the stage at the end of the spring semester. He then noted that, if the field is not completed by then, it would definitely be completed before the 2017 football season.

“The construction of the stadium has been quicker than the other buildings. There was no demolition of buildings or underground electric or plumbing to remove. The school has had several individual athletes win gold medals in track over the years,” Joffre explained. “Kortnei Johnson won seven gold medals between 2012-2015 and is running at LSU on a full scholarship. In 2016, the girls' track team won the UIL Texas State Championship. The athletes normally ran in a grass field to prepare for competition.”

Construction of the new stadium was a priority to IISD because it is an important feature for students to connect with the school through athletics. Joffre shared that the stadium will be used as a tool to promote strong minds and bodies while encouraging students to pursue their post-secondary school dreams.

"At Italy ISD we strive to have a culture of excellence. I am proud to live and work in a community that supports the efforts of IISD,” Joffre stated.

IISD is currently researching energy efficient improvements to apply to existing facilities. Future projects may include replacing older windows and air conditioning units as well as updating light fixtures and insulation.

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Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL

(469) 517- 1454