LA MARQUE

Renovations are halted at flood-damaged La Marque schools while a volunteer facilities assessment committee prepares its recommendation on whether the schools should be repaired or built new.

That recommendation likely won’t come until mid-spring, officials said.

As more than two dozen Texas City and La Marque residents on the committee study the options, elected city officials this week weighed in with some of their wishes for the campuses by unanimously approving a resolution to build new campuses in La Marque.

The decision will ultimately be up to the Texas City school board and potentially voters if a bond election is called to pay for the work.

The Texas City school district has given every indication that any new or remodeled schools would be in La Marque. And the district wants to move temporary schools that might be used next year to La Marque if there is new construction, said Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for the Texas City school district, which annexed La Marque Independent School District in 2016.

City leaders supported building new schools — or possibly an educational village where elementary, middle and high schools might be grouped together, Mayor pro tem Keith Bell said. The existing La Marque schools are approaching 60 years old.

“It’s time for our students to have state-of-the-art classrooms, facilities and grounds,” Mayor Bobby Hocking said. “We have great teachers we need to give them great schools.”

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

Initially, while the district didn’t have a clear timeline, officials had hoped to get the repairs done quickly and resettle the students within weeks. But crews found more damage inside the schools than anticipated, 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 fixed, Tortorici said.

In late December 2017, the school district announced the students would be in portable classrooms for at least the rest of the year, if not longer. On Friday, Tortorici said the portables, which are on Texas City campuses, will house students for the rest of the year, but next year could be moved to La Marque until the campuses there are either repaired or new construction is completed.

“Even if we start renovating schools tomorrow, those schools will be closed for the rest of the year or longer,” Tortorici said. “We’re going to have different temporary buildings in La Marque eventually until they’re either renovated or build new.”

The committee formed in November 2017 has been meeting to discuss the state of La Marque schools and prepare a recommendation for the board, Tortorici said.

“Are they repairable? Yes,” Tortorici said. “But do you want to invest millions in repairing buildings that are 60 years old? That’s what they’re studying now.”

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

Senior Reporter

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