$230 million bond election ahead in Red Oak ISD

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light
Wooden and Eastridge elementary schools in Red Oak ISD would receive additional classrooms as part of the proposed $230 million bond.

Residents in Red Oak ISD will have their chance to vote on a proposed $230.1 million bond this spring.

Monday, the ROISD Board of Trustees voted to call a bond election for May 7 to help address growth, aging facilities, safety and security and technology needs.

The bond is expected be split into four propositions.

If the entire bond is approved, the district’s total tax rate would increase from $1.3256 per $100 valuation to $1.3666. The owner of a home with a net value of $310,000, after a homestead exemption, would pay $10.59 more per month in school district taxes. Residents ages 65 and older with a homestead exemption would not see an increase above the amount of the first year unless significant home improvements are made.

Thursday, members of the Citizens Facility Planning Committee provided a detailed look at the proposed bond package to the Board of Trustees and community members.

Many of the proposed projects in the bond aim to deal with the current and anticipated growth in ROISD.

According to the district, ROISD has added 550 students since last year and is expected to add another 1,000 students by 2026. From 2020 to 2024, the city of Red Oak is projected to add 8,665 new residents.

The district said out of seven campuses, five are at 92 percent capacity or higher as of November of last year with the current zoning. Wooden and Schupmann elementary schools are at 88 percent and 81 percent, respectively.

With no changes in facilities, all but Red Oak Elementary are expected to be more than 110 percent capacity by 2026.

Propositions 

Proposition A would be for constructing and upgrading school buildings. The most expensive item on the list is a new $85 million middle school on the west side of the city.

In December, the board approved the purchase of 47.5 acres for this facility. If approved the new campus is expected to open in 2025.

Red Oak High School senior Jose Moreno was one of several who spoke in favor of the bond on Monday, saying relief is needed for the middle school that has 1,600 students, as well as other campuses.

“Since the moment I set foot in the sixth-grade center, I’ve had to deal with crowded hallways, lunch lines leaving you with little to no time to eat and teachers overrun by crowded hallways, lunches, classes and buses,” Moreno said. “I have noticed this issue for the past six years at both the high school and the middle school. The conditions at the middle school are much worse than they were before.”

The bond would also fund security upgrades at the existing middle school at the walkways between the buildings.

Also part of Proposition A is a new Career and Technology Education (CTE) program at the high school. Officials said many students in the CTE program are spending a lot of time going back and forth to the middle school, where the existing program is located.

There would also be additions and renovations at the high school. Additions include an indoor practice space and a third gym. Monday, multiple students spoke in favor of the bond in part because of the extra space that would be made available for practice by various organizations, such as band, cheerleading and color guard.

Wooden Elementary and Eastridge Elementary would each receive a new kitchen and cafeteria. The existing kitchen and cafeteria would be changed to eight new classrooms, which committee co-chairman Gabriel Garcia said would accommodate 160 students, adding that the project would help the district handle the enrollment projections for the next five to 10 years.

Garcia said it would also help with noise pollution coming from the cafeteria.

A new road would be constructed around the back of the building to help with traffic flow.

Other projects include playground upgrades at all of the elementary schools to bring them up to ADA standards and energy management upgrades throughout the district.

Proposition B would fund improvements to Goodloe Stadium. That includes new locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, press box, new visitors side seating, more seating on the home side, additional parking, added circulation roads, new visitors bus and officials parking area and a new scoreboard.

“This is our first impression to the community, to any visitors to Red Oak,” said committee co-chairman Bryan Bell, adding that there are ADA issues. “And it is not the best impression out there.”

Improvements also include full track renovations and an additional lane on the track, which Bell said is recommended for UIL competitions.

Proposition C would be for upgrading recreation facilities.

The district is proposing a new JV track/turf field at the high school to reduce transit to Goodloe for practices and to help with scheduling issues. It also includes upgrades to the 12-year-old tennis courts and year-round turf for baseball and softball. Multiple coaches supported the bond, saying athletic facilities are in need of repair.

Proposition D calls for a new transportation facility. Bell said the building and parking lots are inadequate with flooding issues and a lack of maintenance space. Bell said since 2015-16 ridership has increased by 39 percent.

During the meetings Thursday and Monday, parents said they support the bond, even if some of them won't have children in school when the proposed facility projects are complete.

“I’m not voting for this for my kids,” resident and committee member Kayla Mattox said. “I’m voting for the future students of Red Oak ISD.”

Past bonds

Committee members said the importance of this proposed bond is highlighted by the failure of the 2017 bond.

ROISD’s $74 million bond election in 2017 was defeated, meaning the last time a bond passed was in 2007 when voters approved a $97 million bond.

“We would not be having to ask for such a large bond had we been able to get that particular bond passed,” Bell said.  

Garcia points to the middle school as one reason why it’s important to have one now, saying the cost to construct the middle school went from $45 million in 2007 to $85 million now.

“It’s important to note that prices don’t go down,” Garcia said.

Bond opposition

While the majority of the residents who spoke Monday favored the bond, three residents spoke against it.

ROISD parent Ana Harwell questioned the timing of the bond election, given the economic climate.

“This is a huge bond,” Harwell said. “While the entire world is struggling to recover from the pandemic and government shutdowns, you’re asking taxpayers for millions of dollars.”

Harwell also noted the inflation across the country.

“We should be addressing spending and budget cuts,” she said.

ROISD parent Amy Hedtke voiced her concerns on the bond, pointing to rising property values.

“You guys adopt a rate that takes more money out of their pocket every year,” Hedtke said. “You know the appraisals are going up. You refuse to adopt a rate that will give them a break.”

Hedtke also said the facility committee meetings weren’t open to the public.

Early voting runs April 25 to May 3. Voter registration deadline is April 7.