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. 

 

 

 

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com

 

(6) comments

Don Ciaccio

Reopen a school that we've done fine without fit five years - absolutely not! Are you kidding me?

Lars Faltskog

It does seem kind of odd, especially since Weis down the road got "consolidated" and such? Perhaps Burnet can become an alternative or special needs campus of some kind?

TikiOwl

There will be a time when it is needed since the population is moving back up. Far better to spend the little money on it now than to just toss it away and have to completely build something new later on.

Walter Manuel

Perhaps GISD is being proactive with regards to needing to be prepared for the need to accept more elementary students in the future from surrounding school districts who have track records of being academically unacceptable year after year?

I would think that if you want a child to succeed in school as a parent and a community as a whole, then you must give them strong leadership along with qualified teachers from the day that they start school and each day there after.

Unfortunately, some surrounding school districts aren't prepared to meet these challenges so you'll be seeing other districts needing to expand in order to accomodate transferring students.

More and more parents are learning that they can move their child to another district without the residency requirements if their own school district has been academically unacceptable for 3 years in a row, so this will obviously require long-term planning on other school districts part.

Good job GISD for planning for your future success![wink]

Lars Faltskog

Response to TikiOwl posted at 8:07 am on Thu, Jan 23, 2014:

Agreed. And, down the road the building can more easily be repurposed (from "special" campus to regular, etc) if need be. It's best to have a facility available (and routinely maintanied) than to not have one at all.

GISD Communications

MissionaryMan is pretty much on point. Our elementary schools are practically full, the lone exception being ECU at the old Weis campus and we are gaining students every year.

Our biggest student enrollment numbers are in the Pre-K levels, indicating a trend of younger students coming to the district, which was one of many reasons the trustees had for re-opening the school.

That and it's prime, central-Island location, it makes sense for the district to have a campus there. Currently, there are three elementary schools within a few square miles of each other (Oppe, Parker, ECU) west of 61st Street. We have many people mid-Island that don't have close access to an elementary school. Many parents like the idea of being able to walk their children to school instead of driving them or putting them on a bus.

We got these renovations for a song compared to what disaster funds paid for. The unanimous vote showed that this was a priority for trustees and everyone is excited to see our last remaining signs of Ike damage taken care of for good.
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