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Voters approve $132M Bryan school bond package

Voters approve $132M Bryan school bond package

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Voters approve $132 million Bryan school bond package

Bryan schools Superintendent Tommy Wallis gets congratulated by Sammy Catalena after the school bond election results came in at the Brazos Center.

The voters have spoken, and Bryan schools are in for some major changes.

Voters in the Bryan school district approved a $132 million bond election Tuesday night that will revamp grade alignment, address delayed renovations and maintenance and give Stephen F. Austin Middle School students -- and district administrators -- a new home.

The bond issue was supported by 64 percent of the votes, or 8,704. Voters cast a ballot for the package as a whole.

"I'm excited for the students of Bryan, because that's what this whole bond election was about. It's about grade realignment, it's about getting rid of portable buildings, it's about the safety of our children," said Bryan Superintendent Tommy Wallis. "I think the voters have spoken, they put the needs of the children first, and we really appreciate it."

The bond issue, which the school board called for in July after a committee recommendation, focuses on grade restructuring, combating aging facilities and strengthening safety and security for students throughout the district.

Many members of the committee that studied and ultimately recommended the bond measure joined parents and community members to form the One For All BISD Political Action Committee. The group of more than 30 gathered at Papa Perez in Downtown Bryan Tuesday night, many decked out in lime green shirts with blue lettering that read "I'm voting FOR."

"From the beginning, I've always felt like this was the right thing to do, so I never doubted its success," said Allen Wood, a Bryan parent and a member of the facilities committee. He stood alongside Bryan teachers, principals and parents in the back of the restaurant as the votes came in and were tallied on a large white pad on an easel. "It's the level of success in the election that's so uplifting here."

The district's grade structure will switch to a new model: prekindergarten or kindergarten through fourth grade in elementary, two intermediate schools for fifth- and sixth-graders, middle schools for seventh- and eighth-graders, and ninth through 12th grades in high school.

The fate of Stephen F. Austin Middle School became one of the most debated issues of the bond package, and now its students will receive a new building on the other side of the campus. District officials said the current building, built in 1938, was not functioning well as academic space, so it will become the home to district administrators.

The bond also allocates roughly $24 million for additional classrooms and renovations, and an extra $9.3 million for district-wide improvements.

The owner of a home valued at $127,000 will see a property tax increase of about $82 per year. Homeowners in the school district will see their taxes increase late next year.

The district will now enter into the design process, and some of the major projects, such as construction on Sul Ross Elementary and the new building for Stephen F. Austin, will be started right away, Wallis said. The new middle school could break ground in summer 2015 and would take two years to construct, so the 2017-2018 school year would be the earliest Bryan could see the realigned grades in action, he said.

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