West’s youngest students will have to stay in their current school, which has not seen any major renovation since it opened in 1952.
Voters chose Saturday to reject a $20 million bond, 529 votes to 468. The money would have gone to a new, 80,000-square-foot elementary school. The school would have been the last major project for West Independent School District since the town was rocked by a fertilizer plant explosion in April 2013.
Superintendent David Truitt said he is disappointed in the results but energized to reach out to voters and seek a way forward.
“Whatever the reasons are the vote turned out this way, we need to find out what they are and respond appropriately,” Truitt said. “I still believe our community understands that we need a new campus. So we need to come together and decide how that looks.”
Had the bond passed, it would have added 23 cents per $100 of property value to the West ISD tax rate, which is now at a little more than $1.29 per $100 of property value, according to district documents. The tax bill on a $100,000 home in the district would have gone up by $19.16 per month, almost $230 per year. The annual school tax on a $100,000 home would have gone up from $1,290.70 to $1,520.70.
The plan would have also added room for another 220 students at a campus already busting at the seams, Truitt has said. Instead, the district may have to look at bringing temporary buildings back to handle overcrowding, he said.
After the explosion, about 200 fourth- and fifth-grade students moved into the campus because the blast destroyed West ISD’s intermediate school. The move brought the total number of students in the one campus to 530, leaving teachers with little room to meet the needs of 21st century learners, Principal Cari Detlefsen said earlier this year.
The move was only meant to be temporary, Truitt said at the time.
The district also relied on three temporary portable buildings, on loan from Grand Prairie ISD since the explosion, to house sixth-graders, special education offices, in-school suspension rooms and serve as storage space, Truitt said. But those buildings are no longer in use, and are waiting to be sent back to their home district, he said.
If the bond had passed, the district would have sold the building and moved the school away from its current campus on the town’s main street, less than a full block from the Interstate 35 access roads.
The new location would have alleviated traffic congestion for school drop-offs and pick-ups and prevented any hangups in emergency situations, Truitt has said. It also would have been closer to the high school and middle school building that opened in 2016.