TEXAS CITY

A community group comprised of Texas City and La Marque residents surveying the school district’s buildings and infrastructure recommended a $135.9 million bond Thursday in a meeting with the Texas City Independent School District board.

Trustees made no decisions nor discussed a bond election Thursday night, but heard the group’s proposal and learned about residents’ responses in community surveys about the district’s campuses.

The board will likely make a decision during a meeting Tuesday, district spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said. The school board could choose to call an election on the entire bond proposal or parts of it or not call a referendum at all, Tortorici said.

The group also did not discuss Thursday what a possible $135.9 million bond would mean for the district’s tax rate, which affects homeowners and businesses within the boundaries of the district spanning parts of Texas City and La Marque.

A community group of about 70 residents has been studying and surveying the school district’s campuses for months after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 caused significant damage to aging facilities, particularly in La Marque. The group also looked at schools in Texas City, some of which were aging and had been deemed in need a repairs, members said.

“It was without a doubt the consensus of the committee that we’ve got to do this,” said Angel Garcia, a Texas City resident and member of the committee.

“For our kids, teachers and for the community, we need schools we can be proud of and we seek to create the facility initiative our children need.”

The committee recommended several items in a potential bond, including replacing four schools, improving security, making districtwide repairs and launching an initiative to supply each student in grades seven through 12 with a computer.

In its study, the committee learned that building a new La Marque Primary School, 100 Lake Road, would cost about $24.1 million, compared to the $24.9 million price tag of repairing the aging building, said Edna Courville, a member of the committee. In online and phone surveys of more than 600 district registered voters, about 84 percent supported building a new school, she said.

Manuel Guajardo Jr. Elementary School, 2300 21st St., in Texas City, was built in 1957 and needs renovations to meet code and instructional needs, she said. The cost of renovation would be about $13.1 million, whereas building a new campus would cost about $25.7 million, Courville said. About 68 percent of registered voters surveyed supported building a new school, she said.

The board also recommended constructing a new La Marque Elementary School, 1217 Vauthier, which would cost about $24.4 million, she said. The school sustained damage during Hurricane Harvey and had existing problems, which were estimated to cost $25.6 million to repair, she said.

About 86 percent of registered voters surveyed recommended building new instead, Courville said.

La Marque Middle School, 1431 Bayou Road, was also damaged during Harvey and had previous damage from its age and deferred maintenance, she said. The cost of a new school was estimated at $44.5 million, compared to $30.5 million for repairs, she said. About 77 percent of registered voters surveyed preferred building new, she said.

The committee also recommended districtwide safety and security measures totaling about $6.5 million, which 87 percent of registered voters surveyed supported, Courville said.

Campuses across the district were in need of roof repairs and new parking areas, the committee found. Those costs were estimated at $9 million and had overwhelming support from registered voters surveyed, she said.

The final recommendation by the committee was for a districtwide technology initiative, which would provide every student in the district in seventh through 12th grades with a computer, she said. About 84 percent of registered voters surveyed supported that initiative, she said.

La Marque Elementary School, La Marque Middle School and La Marque Primary School were flooded by Hurricane Harvey in late August 2017, forcing the district to find new classrooms for about 1,600 students.

Officials had hoped to get the repairs done quickly and resettle the students within weeks. But crews found more damage inside the schools than expected, Tortorici said.

The schools are more than 50 years old and, as construction crews worked to dry out the buildings, they found more and more things inside that needed to be repaired, Tortorici said.

The school board in October 2017 hired Robert Nicks, an associate professor at Lamar University, as a consultant to lead the advisory committee. In November 2017, the committee began meeting to review campuses across the district and see what needs they had.

The group met at least six times before drafting a recommendation and delivering it to the board Thursday night.

The state closed the La Marque Independent School District in 2016 and ordered it annexed by the Texas City district.

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

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