About $8.4 million worth of upgrades are underway in the Madisonville school district but will take at least two years to complete.
The school board last week authorized the issuance, sale and delivery of building bonds for new construction, a measure that was approved by voters in May 2015 with an approval rating of almost 80 percent.
“Interest rates are better than they’ve ever been,” said Superintendent Keith Smith. “It’s a perfect time for us to do something.”
A committee formed in 2013 to assess needs for the district, at which student enrollment is growing at an average rate of 3 percent per year.
The high school, which opened in 1966, has the greatest facility needs, as it is operating at maximum capacity and there are no available classrooms for student or program growth. The auditorium no longer meets UIL standards for one-act play competition, and needs were identified for increased college and career readiness instructional programs, Smith said.
The bond funds will cover auto tech and small engine repair classrooms, a shop, culinary arts lab, three family and consumer science classes, classrooms to accommodate health and medical vocational classes and a college-style lecture hall for the dual credit program. Additionally, a new secure entrance will be added to the school to increase safety.
The needs were weighed against the option of building a new $43 million high school, and it was determined that they could be best addressed by renovations, Smith said.
Along with the high school upgrades, eight classrooms will be added to the elementary school, along with a new entrance and an additional freezer for nutritional needs.
Additions at the junior high include a new band hall and conversion of the existing band hall into a choir and theater arts room. The entry area will be secured and additional parking will be constructed.
The intermediate school, built in 2000, is in good shape, Smith said, and meets the needs of students even considering projected growth. A secure main entrance will be added.
Work has been ongoing for about a month, and they are trying to make as much progress as possible during the summer, Smith said.
“When the kids come back to school, we have to slow it down for safety reasons,” he said.
He expects that property taxes will increase slightly until the elementary school is paid off in 2020, but the benefits of the upgrades are well worth it.
“It attracts people to our schools and local businesses when we have nice facilities,” Smith said.