The West Independent School District board of trustees voted Wednesday to allow the demolition of the intermediate school and parts of the middle school damaged by the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.
The demolition, set to begin as early as July 1, will be handled by Bartlett Cocke, a San Antonio-based company.
Bartlett Cocke was chosen as construction manager for West ISD at a special board meeting June 12. The company will hire a subcontractor to carry out the demolition.
The board voted to demolish the entire intermediate school structure, as well as several structures on the middle school campus, including the cafeteria, a transportation facility, storage space and maintenance facility, according to a report given by Superintendent Marty Crawford at the meeting.
Discussion of the high school demolition was left to a later date. The district’s insurance provider deemed the middle school cafeteria salvageable and offered $600,000 for repairs, but board members determined it would be better to tear it down. The district still will receive the insurance money.
“They’re saying it’s repairable, but we all saw it,” said Larry Hykel, board president, in his recommendation to demolish the structure. “It’s going to take a great deal longer to repair it than it would to take it down, and we know how many problems it has.”
Board members expressed dissatisfaction in the amount offered by the insurance company.
They discussed ensuring that they have all pictures and documents needed to show how badly damaged the building is before it is demolished, in case they press the company for more money.
“We have to be able to show that they were trying to low-ball us,” Trustee Robin Waters said.
The cafeteria demolition also will ensure more room for portable buildings, which will allow students to come back to West for school by August, a goal important to Crawford and board members.
“We have good plans for keeping our academic programs the way they were, inserting improvements as well, and taking care of our extracurricular activities,” Crawford said. “We care about the total school experience.”
The demolition will mark the beginning of Phase I of reconstruction. The whole rebuilding process will take about two years, board members were told.
West ISD’s insurance policy, which is worth about $60 million, will cover only about half of the cost of demolishing and rebuilding the schools.
School funding was put on even shakier footing when board members voted Wednesday to allow the reappraisal of homes in the school district.
The schools are funded partially through property taxes, so when the homes are reappraised at lower values, homeowners will pay less property taxes, and therefore less money will be available to the district.
In a presentation to the school board Wednesday, Andrew Hahn, McLennan County Appraisal District chief appraiser, explained that the property taxes would not be based on the reappraised value alone, but a combination of the old and new values.
Even so, the funding could decrease substantially.
The district received about $3.3 million from property taxes last year, according to Charles Mikeska, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.
He said he was not comfortable giving an estimate of how much revenue could be lost to reappraisal, but said the district would take a significant hit.
“I most certainly do not want my friends and family to be taxed on what they don’t have,” Hykel said. “We will get by. We will do what we have to do, and we will go on, move forward and attack this challenge in front of us head-on.”