STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Taxpayers passing by Marble Falls Independent School District campuses might not be able to see it, but implementation of the projects they approved in a $55 million bond election last year are underway and on schedule, including programs and facility enhancements designed to make the schools safer.
Keyless entries and lockdown buttons in all vestibules on each campus and other facilities have been installed and are either fully operational or are being tested, said MFISD Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen.
Workers are in the process of repairing or replacing HVAC systems at Highland Lakes Elementary School in Granite Shoals and Marble Falls High School. The ceiling grid at the high school is on track to be completed before the start of the 2019-20 school year, Allen added.
The school district has ordered six buses with seat belts to be used starting this fall. Five are regular buses, and the sixth is for students in special education.
During this past spring semester, the district ordered 1,600 Dell Chromebook laptops for students.
“Some (of our current computers) have aged out,” Allen said.
Work to improve the bus loops at Marble Falls Middle School and Highland Lakes Elementary School is expected to begin at the end of June. Referred to as “vehicular circulation and parking” in the bond package, the bus loops will include awnings “so kids can move undercover,” Allen said.
Officials anticipate work on the bus loop at the high school will begin mid- to late summer.
Other projects on that campus will start in the fall, including the creation of a common space between the cafeteria and the library that encloses the current courtyard and extending the physical building that holds the front office to the fine arts building. Currently, students walk under a vestibule that has an iron fence in front of it blocking the area from the parking lot to keep people from entering that way. Enclosing those areas would shield views of students and school personnel to keep them as safe as possible.
Paragon Sports, which was contracted to rebuild the track and install new turf at Mustang Stadium, tore out the old artificial turf June 3 and began adding the elastic, or e-layer, that goes between the ground and the new turf. The e-layer “significantly reduces impact and significantly reduces the chance for impact injury,” Allen said.
The turf is projected to be ready by the time the Mustang football team begins training for the 2019 season. Fall training camp starts August 5, and the Mustangs host their season-opener against Fischer Canyon Lake on August 30.
The bond also allowed the school district to expand a program it began last year to serve the mental health and wellness of its students, faculty, and staff: the Social and Emotional Learning Program.
The district plans to have one SEL coordinator on each of its six campuses beginning in the 2019-20 school year. Last year, the program had two coordinators, whose top priority was to help students on every campus develop a sense of belonging, the superintendent said.
“Between the enhancements we are making to our facilities, the funds we’ve dedicated to our social and emotional learning program, and other programs and policies we’ve put in place, I feel like the district has stronger safety and security than what we might have had five years ago,” Allen said.