As the 2022-23 school year approaches, school districts are dealing with preparing for students, but in the case of Cleveland ISD, that process always seems a higher hill to climb as rapid enrollment continues, hitting 11,000 students last school year.
Much of that growth in recent years has been handled partly by revitalizing campuses and adding brand-new facilities across the area, which has led to a need for bonds.
Monday night, the board of trustees heard a presentation from the district’s Bond Proposal Committee and their recommendation to the board on upcoming district bond referendums.
Following a narrow defeat last November that would have seen a new high school campus constructed in the Colony Ridge area, Cleveland school administrators under new Superintendent Stephen McCanless have gone back to the drawing board, with the assistance of the committee, which was made up of a wide array of local community members.
“The committee is comprised of a wide range of stakeholders that include former teachers and staff, business leaders, parents, grandparents, and even a few individuals who have not yet had children. This has given our committee a balance and insight on a wide range of needs and wants,” said Bethany Porter.
At hand for the committee was the best way to move forward on a new bond proposal as the need for adequate space and facilities only increases; the district is growing at an average of 993 students per year, with proposed estimates of over 20,000 students in another 10 years.
That number figures in two new area charter schools, and without those campuses’ estimates reach over 32,000 students inside Cleveland ISD.
The committee reviewed 20 projects and selected five of those for consideration. They came up with a plan that would allow them to utilize a solid AAA bond rating and come in under their current $115 million bond capacity without a raise in taxes, which Cleveland has not had since 2017.
“Taxpayers have made it extremely clear that they will not accept a tax raise of any kind on a bond proposal,” said Porter.
That proposal calls for the construction of a new middle school campus adjacent to the brandnew Northside Elementary, with the current Cleveland Middle School campus being converted to a 9th and 10th grade campus, sharing facilities for things like athletics with neighboring Cleveland High School.
There will also be a new CTE building constructed between and shared by both campuses on the site of the old baseball stadium, while the district will also refurbish the Southside and Douglas campuses.
“We need to work on what we have and take care of it, and for now, this, in our opinion, is going to be the best-laid plan,” said Porter.
This proposal was made instead of asking Cleveland voters for another high school campus, as those costs would have required a substantial tax rate increase, with that project costing an estimated $215 million at this time.
“I think doing it the way we did it this time is going to be a plus with all your support and support from each school board member,” said board president Willie Carter.
The committee believes firmly in this proposal, which will be only one of several more in the coming years, including a need for another middle school and elementary campus, as well as two more high school campuses in the next ten years.
McCanless is pleased with all the time and hard work that committee members poured into the planning and reviewing of this new bond.
“I was honored to work alongside the bond committee and go through the processes and collaboration of finalizing bond projects that will provide to the students of CISD the most supportive educational environment and the best facilities. The bond committee, composed of local citizens and community members from Cleveland, donated many hours of their own personal time to commit to meeting and finding the best solution of how to spend the $115,000,000.00 that the proposed school bond will be for,” said McCanless.