If you were hoping to hear a firm timeline for the construction of the fifth elementary school at last week’s HPISD school board meeting, you would have been disappointed. However, the board did approve selling $225 million in bonds — the first issuance of funds — so a construction timeline can’t be too far away.
The decision to sell more than the projected $150 million was reached with counsel from the district’s bond market advisor Matt Boles of RBC Capital Markets and the Finance Committee.
According to Boles, the municipal bond market trading at a 50-year low was a contributing factor, as was input from district architects.
“We believe that $225 million is a very comfortable place to be in terms of your reasonable expectation to spend that in a three year period,” Boles said.
The bonds will have a 20-year amortization period (so Aug. 15, 2036), and the expected district tax rate is lower than what was projected in the fall. Selling is slated to begin in February and is meant to fund the first of the district’s construction projects, including the relocation of the Seay Tennis Center at the high school.
The rest of the updates shared at the meeting were just those, updates. Here’s a break down.
- Elementary My Dear: Board member and Facilities Committee chair Jim Hitzleberger announced that the purchase of the land from Northway Christian Church for the fifth elementary school is expected to be completed by May. Designs for that school are still under review by a focus group consisting of community and board members, administration, and teachers. The board hopes to have drawings public at the next meeting on Feb. 9, Hitzleberger said.
- New Hire: The district also plans to hire a construction manager at-risk in the coming weeks to oversee the work on the elementary school. The manager’s salary will be financed by bond proceeds, Superintendent Tom Trigg said. “We’re looking forward to adding someone to our staff who can really take charge and protect our interests as we move forward,” he said.
- Bidding Builders: There are six construction firms in competition now to build the new elementary school and re-build the originals.
- Savings: If you didn’t hear in December, HPISD refinanced $53 million of the remaining bonds from the 2008 package for a projected savings of $7.2 million.
- Roger that: The board is putting together a communication plan to deliver news about the upcoming progress.
In the public comments portion of the meeting, two citizens weighed in on plans for the rebuilds. Eun-Sang Covin asked the board to commit to a plan to have a different architecture firm design each of the elementary schools.
“Drawing on the input and talent of various architecture firms versus just one hand shaping all of our new schools will lend toward a more interesting process and a better end result,” she said. “As we know, competition breeds excellence.”
Hitzleberger said that the committees are concentrating on the fifth school for now, but said that was something that would be discussed as the district gets closer to working on the other schools.
University Park resident Bryce Weigand was the principal architect for the construction of MIS/HPMS in the ’90s. He had a bit of advice for the architects of the new projects and what design elements to save.
“When we did the work in ’91 we knew that the elementary schools frankly had been cobbled together in a generous way,” Weigand said. “Look at the historical pieces of the building and the ones we’ve looked at in some detail recently (are at) Hyer school. It has particular charm, and a particular feel and scale to it.”
We’ll have an update after the next school board meeting on Feb. 9. In the mean time, start brainstorming ideas for what you’d name the fifth elementary school. Maybe a founding woman of the Park Cities? Or perhaps a past board member? We at Park Cities People would like to know.