EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls Independent School District is emphasizing safety and security in its $55 million bond package that will go before voters in November.
“If you look at the package, we’re trying to address some of the safety and security concerns around the district,” Superintendent Chris Allen said.
Over the years, the district has made improvements to both areas, but there are some places that need attention.
Other parts of the bond package tackle aging facilities and needed renovations.
The MFISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved taking the bond package to voters during its Aug. 20 meeting.
The bond would cover, among other items, lockdown systems and keyless-access control panels; a controlled, single-point of entry vestibule at Marble Falls High School; a connection between Highland Lakes Elementary School’s main campus and its fourth-grade hall; upgrades to fire alarms and sprinkler systems; improvements to traffic circulation and parking; the purchase of several new school buses with seat belts; and the addition of mental health and counseling spaces at all campuses. Go to marblefallsisdbond.org for a complete list of projects.
One aim of the bond package is to reduce outdoor passages at the high school. Currently, there are a number of locations where students must exit one building to enter another. The district wants to reduce the number for security and safety reasons.
The bond would also expand the high school cafeteria and connect it to the library. (They are currently separated by outdoor space.) The expansion would allow the high school to return to two lunch periods instead of three, enabling better scheduling as well as other benefits.
“Security is a big priority for the district and the board, and we feel the bond would help us in that area,” Allen added.
The bond doesn’t call for a new school, but it will include renovation projects at several campuses.
“We really need to expand the administration spaces at Highland Lakes (Elementary),” Allen said.
That’s not to create cathedral-like offices for campus administration but rather better settings for parents and students who might need to address a confidential matter. Right now, Allen pointed out, with the way the school’s administration offices are laid out, there is really no way for a parent or student who needs to visit with administrative staff — moving from one office to another — to do so in a private manner.
“This plan puts the principal, assistant principal, and counselor in proximity,” Allen said. “These are places a parent or children go when they need help of any kind, and we want to honor those kids and parents by ensuring they can feel secure and remain confidential.”
The bond would address aging equipment such as the high number of air conditioners — about 90 in the district — that are more than 25 years old.
And there’s always the need to keep up with technology and related infrastructure.
The board and district administration didn’t come up with the bond package on their own. In fact, a facilities planning committee made up of a cross-section of MFISD community members — business owners, parents, teachers, residents — held regular meetings starting April 19 to review district facilities and needs.
“They met almost every other Thursday for about two hours through July,” Allen said.
The meetings drew between 40 and 74 people with an average attendance of about 50. The committee broke up into three task forces to focus on elementary school needs, middle school needs, and high school needs. During the process, the committee and task forces toured the campuses while school was in session to see how students and staff moved around.
“If you’ve never been to the middle school cafeteria when kids are having lunch, you really don’t understand what that looks like and what the issues are,” Allen said.
The bond committee put a great deal of work into assessing the district’s current facilities and looking at its future needs. The committee presented its recommendations during a July board meeting, which the district followed up by asking for input from the rest of the community via an online survey. The survey results backed up the committee’s initial recommendations, Allen said.
“This was a community project,” the superintendent said about the process of determining the bond package.
The bond will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. Early voting is Oct. 22-Nov. 2. The last day to register for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9. Go to marblefallsisdbond.org or call the superintendent’s office at (830) 693-4357 for more information.