Royal ISD’s Community Advisory Committee continues to meet to review infrastructural problems throughout the district. On May 11 and May 24, respectively, committee members attended meetings at …
Royal ISD’s Community Advisory Committee continues to meet to review infrastructural problems throughout the district. On May 11 and May 24, respectively, committee members attended meetings at the RISD STEM Academy and Royal Elementary School, with several expressing shock at the condition of the STEM facility.
“I am unsatisfied with the venue based on everything that needs to be done for the staff and students to have a fully functional facility. It is very sad for everyone to have to deal and have to make do with everything that is lacking,” one committee member’s anonymous response to a survey after the May 11 tour of the STEM facility read.
School officials pointed out a variety of issues at the STEM facility during the May 11 tour. Chief among those are the condition of the facility’s kitchen, poor lighting in hallways, HVAC concerns and a facility whose layout is not conducive to its current purpose. Additionally, the bleachers in the gymnasium are no longer functional, they said, with the seating for viewing any sporting event or assembly in the gym permanently pushed back into a retracted position to keep anyone from being injured.
“As far as the gym goes, the bleachers are damaged …,” said RISD Director of Operations Derrick Dabney. “So, we have them pushed back and locked. The (STEM Academy) gym floor needs to be refinished.”
Many of the worst issues at the STEM facility are in the kitchen, Dabney said. There are plumbing and cosmetic issues, but much of the kitchen equipment, including the stove and coolers, require replacement to ensure safety and cleanliness.
Phylicia Glover, who is the principal for the STEM Academy, said the layout for the building is not what it should be. Some portions of the facility such as the locker rooms and showers have been left unused due to maintenance issues and are serving more as storage than as something the students can get use out of. Additionally, the STEM Academy has multiple issues with windows and roofing that aren’t watertight and are causing damage to flooring and other infrastructure. Also, one of the engineering classrooms has no proper ceiling installed and the HVAC system being unreliable makes it difficult to regulate temperature evenly throughout the building.
While the situation at Royal Elementary School is not as dire, RES Principal Aronda Green said there are cosmetic and functional issues that need to be addressed before they become safety concerns. The HVAC system in the facility is overtaxed and settling of the foundation has caused buckling in the flooring which creates tripping hazards.
The Royal Community Advisory Committee – a group made up of community leaders, parents and former RISD students – will be exploring what options to take to remedy the safety issues at Royal’s campuses.
Possible actions may include a bond package proposal that has not been determined as yet. District staff and consultants have advised the committee that a bond authorization of up to $90 million would not raise the district’s tax rate, though it would extend the length of time it takes to pay off the district’s debt. Additionally, the repairs and refurbishment of buildings would need to include some additional student capacity given population growth in RISD.
Consultant Steve Risser with Galagher Construction said about 1,800 new homes are being built in RISD that the district will need to serve. These homes are spread out across the Crystal Lakes, Windsor Estates, Freeman Ranch, Sunterra and Kingsland Ranch subdivisions.
On the plus side, RISD Superintendent Rick Kershner said, this also adds to the Maintenance and Operation budget for the school which will allow the district to hire more maintenance staff. Additionally, the new homes add to the district’s taxpayer base, spreading the cost for any bonds out among a larger group, which also helps prevent any increase in the district’s tax rate.
Property values are also increasing across the district in previously undeveloped areas such as those subdivisions, Kershner said. This has increased the property values within the district from $1.45 billion in 2020 to an estimated $2.1 billion by November of this year.
Staff also said the district has been responsible with the bond debt it has had in the past with some of its debt expected to be paid off over the summer – three years earlier than anticipated.
“And that’s great because the board’s initiative (on May 10) was not just to take advantage of (low interest rates) but to actually pay off some of the bonds early,” said district financial consultant Lucas Janda at the May 11 meeting.
Two more meetings are planned for June 7 and June 15. Those interested in attending may reach out to Christi Ginn at email@example.com for more information and to register to attend.