Milano ISD eyes overcrowding fixes

New junior-high, ag shop mulled
Reporter Staff Writer

Students head for lunch down the halls of Milano’s crowded junior-high, former temporary building in Rockdale. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Students head for lunch down the halls of Milano’s crowded junior-high, former temporary building in Rockdale. Reporter/Mike Brown MILANO—Cramped spaces might mean new places for Milano ISD students as officials held a public hearing Thursday to discuss options to help with the district’s overcrowding.

MISD superintendent Robert Westbrook said the district is focused on its future needs.

“Planning for the future requires thought given to each facility and its function. Location of proposed new additions or buildings will affect future planning just as the present build- ing locations affect today’s planning,” he said.

Funding of the possible new facilities were also discussed with several types of grants and a possible bond issue thrown into the mix.

“We don’t want to do this in a veil of secrecy— we want it to be very candid and are willing to take questions at anytime,” Westbrook said of the process.

In his State of the District Report on Facilities, Westbrook listed only 32-percent of the district’s buildings receiving better than “good” rating.

MEETING—Consensus at Thursday’s meeting was for a new junior high and vocational studies building.

“We kept going back to the junior high facility,” John Yakesch, facilities committee member, said.

John Pruett, who served also on the facilities committee said the group prioritized the major facility needs and came up with two scenarios presented.

Other option is to move the junior high to the current elementary, build a new elementary school at the site of the old one, on the east side of town, and build a new vocational studies building.

Several other concerns of the district’s facilities were also brought to light at each campus and the district’s other auxiliary buildings.

OVERCROWDING— Milano Junior High is well over full capacity. It is actually a portable building purchased from the Rockdale ISD in 2009.

The seven-classroom building has two restrooms with four stalls to serve its 107 students and seven teachers.

Students have to be released to change classes in shifts because the hallway is too small. There are no lockers for the students, just wooden cubby spaces in the hallway.

Junior high students also share a gym, cafeteria and library with the older students inside the high school’s main building.

Since its reassemble in 2009, the junior high has had issues with several leaks. Numerous contractors have been called to patch the problems with none being successful.

‘AG SHOP’—The vocational studies building, referred to by most as the “Ag Shop” was born in 1985 and houses a classroom, tool room and shop, as well as an upstairs room currently used for football equipment storage and bathrooms that are used during football games.

The building’s deteriorating interior has no insulation in the shop area.

School officials noted the ag shop is located on what is now the elementary campus, an almost 250-yard walk to class and back.

Ag students have to cross a parking lot, road and behind the current pre-K/ kindergarten building. During inclement weather, buses and fuel are used to transport students to and from the high school and ag shop.

FUNDING—Lewis Wilks of Capital Advisors presented options the district could use to fund facility upgrades, including general obligation tax bonds.

“Several projects would almost have to be done by a vote,” Wilks said, meaning letting MISD voters decide on a bond issue.

Other options incuded lease revenue bonds, maintenance tax notes and interest-bearing time warrants. None would require a vote to be approved, but each has other stipulations or limits.

DEBT—Milano ISD issued a bond debt of $4.1 million in 2006 for the current high school building.

In Aug. 2013, taxpayers still owed $3,615,000, according to MISD business manager Stephanie Gage.

There is a 19-cent rate on the district’s current bonds, with a state cap of a 50-cent rate.

Current bonds are callable in November and could save the district $347,000 over 20 years if refinanced, Wilks said.

Westbrook said the district looks to get some money back from the state after the statewide school finance lawsuit is hashed out.

WHAT’S NEXT?—The decision on what the district’s next steps will be is up to the MISD school board which meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the MHS library.

Westbrook said that the district has put out requests for qualifications from different architect firms.

“We want practicality and functionality in the new facilities,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook was asked why the district doesn’t buy more land to build all new facilities.

“Buying more land would bump up costs of the project,” he said.

MISD still owns the property of the old elementary campus. It is currently leasing one of the buildings to Burleson-Milam Special Services to use as office space.

Milano ISD currently has 174 students at its elementary, 107 at the junior high and 152 at the high school.

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