GALVESTON — In a unanimous vote, the Galveston Independent School District board of trustees voted to reopen the Burnet Elementary School starting next year.
What that means is that the school could have students from kindergarten up to fourth grade being taught in the building when the school year begins on Aug. 25.
What’s unknown is exactly how many students there will be, who will teach them and how opening a new elementary school will affect the student populations of the island’s other elementary schools.
GISD Superintendent Larry Nichols said that now that the trustees have chosen to move forward with opening the school, the district could now begin officially making those plans.
Nichols said that one solution to filling the school could be moving an entire program, such as the Early Childhood University at the Weis Middle School building, to the Burnet location on the 5500 block of Avenue S.
“We could choose to move that elementary school if need to, but we don’t know how many registrations we’ll have,” Nichols said.
School officials say they believe that reopening the school will be popular with mid-island residents.
The district would keep a close watch about how opening the new school will affect its resources and spending, Nichols said.
“We will certainly be fiscally responsible. We won’t open an elementary school or we won’t keep all the elementary schools open if there’s no need,” he said.
Rehabilitation of Burnet School are on track to be completed by the end of February. The school has been closed since floodwaters damaged the school during Hurricane Ike in 2008.
The board of trustees last summer voted to complete the final repairs, citing a possibility that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not fund repairs if more time elapsed.
Since Hurricane Ike, the school district has spent $5.04 million in repairs on the school. The district was responsible for paying 10 percent of the cost, while the rest was covered by FEMA recovery grants.
Nichols said that more money will still have to be spent to get the school ready for students — for costs ranging from landscaping to hiring staff to buying classroom equipment — but he was hesitant to put a number about how much more that would cost.
“We know that there’s some more money to be spent, but at the end of the day, it’s still a great bargain to the taxpayer,” Nichols said. “We may spend another half a million dollars, or $300,000, or $400,000.”
Nichols said the school does still have a fund set aside that can be used for further reconstruction work.
Officials also hope to avoid any confusion caused by announcing the reopening just as the district was beginning its application process for the new school year.
The district’s “Schools of Choice” materials do not currently list Burnet Elementary as a possible school choice. Officials said that they will make efforts to inform the public about the decision and could possibly extend the application deadline.
School board President Matthew Hay said he did not believe adding another choice would disrupt the selection process too much.
“The truth is that every year, no matter how many times you say, ‘Put in your requests by the 20th’ [the administration] fields requests all summer long,” Hay said. “I think that’s why the board felt like making the announcement that it is going to be a school, at least gives people the thought that if I’m going to Burnet, maybe I don’t pick a school yet.”
Trustee Beau Rawlins was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.