West ISD officials discuss next steps for rebuilding schools

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 12:01 am | Updated: 1:10 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

West Independent School District board of trustees discussed the next steps for rebuilding its damaged schools at its Wednesday meeting.

West ISD’s intermediate, high school and parts of the middle school were destroyed in the April 17 explosion at West Fertilizer Co.

FEMA already has given West ISD $2.75 million to pay for several modular buildings that are housing classes in the interim, but trustees must decide which FEMA funding method it will choose for rebuilding the schools.

The board could opt to rebuild the schools in one of three pre-Hurricane Sandy methods, or the post-Sandy method.

The pre-Sandy methods do not cap the amount of funding the district can receive, but there are more restrictions on how the money can be used.

The post-Sandy method caps the amount of funding to the district, but the money is given upfront and there are fewer restrictions on it.

Superintendent Marty Crawford gave trustees a report Wednesday evening on the funding methods, but a decision is not expected until October.

“(FEMA) can’t tell us what method to choose, but they were steering us in the direction of the post-Sandy method,” board president Larry Hykel said. “They never said this is what you should do, and they never will. It’s up to us to make the decision.”

The intermediate school already has been demolished, and the high school should be demolished by the end of the year, Crawford said. Construction on the new high school is expected to begin early next year, he said.

School officials hope to have all new buildings finished by the summer of 2015, or winter 2015 at the latest.

“Our goal is to have no more than two senior classes graduate before we have our brick-and-mortar West High School,” Crawford said.

The temporary campus is mostly in place, and classes started on time Aug. 26, but the science labs, locker rooms and band hall are not yet up and running.

Those buildings should be in place by Monday, Crawford said at Wednesday’s meeting. The last of the buildings, administrative offices, should be in place in two weeks, he said.

“We’re taking care of the kids first,” Crawford said.

Crawford also addressed enrollment at Wednesday’s meeting, which has decreased by 49 students.

“All these pundits were predicting that enrollment would evaporate overnight and decrease by half, but they were wrong,” Crawford said. “There’s a slight tilt down, but we’ve done a great job preparing, budget-wise, for that.”

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