Westwood Board meeting

Financial Advisor Michael Grubbs presents changes in the tax rate to the Westwood Board of Trustees and visitors at a special meeting in August. The board voted unanimously for the new bond at the meeting.

With the Nov. 5 election looming, Westwood schools have one month to persuade voters to approve a $40-million bond package similar to the one voters narrowly rejected, 410-415, in May. Early voting starts Oct. 21.

The district will announce details of the new proposal Thursday morning, but little has changed from the $39-million plan a community advisory committee had worked on for a year.The bond rose by $1 million, largely due to inflationary costs, school officials said.

Superintendent Wade Stanford told the Herald-Press the announcement Thursday morning is to get the message out to as large an audience as possible. “We analyzed our last campaign, and we’re making adjustments,” he said.

The biggest disappointment for residents of the 1,500-student school district will likely remain the lack of separate junior high and high school entrances. At the community's request, members of the Facility Advisory Committee looked into building two entrances, but the change entailed major revisions to the entire plan that would have been cost-prohibitive, school officials said.

The good news is that the owner of a $100,000 home – slightly below the Westwood average – would pay a property tax increase of only $23.02 a month. That's down from the $31-a-month increase district officials estimated last spring for the same home.

The reduction is due largely to additional state revenue that will reduce taxes for school maintenance and operations.

Some parts of the Westwood Independent School District were built in the 1950s. Its last major reconstruction project tool place 40 years ago. That bond was paid off in 1998.

School buildings have reached the end of their construction life. With numerous entrances and static learning spaces, the design of the campus, four schools, and classrooms is seriously outdated.

At the center of the district's new communication strategy is a website at www.westwoodisdbond.com. The site features photos of the new buildings; updates are posted to a Frequently Asked Questions page. The district will put on an open community meeting before November at a yet-to-be-determined date, time, and location.

The rebuilding plan would make students safer and bolster student achievement, as well as save energy and maintenance costs for the outdated campus, with an average age of 60 years.

Stanford said he’s open to hearing residents’ concerns and wants everyone to learn more about the proposal. “We’re respectful of everyone’s opinion and viewpoint,” he said. 

The new buildings would provide an improved learning environment, with better access to technology and flexible furniture.

To prepare students for the 21st century, technology now drives the state curriculum, Stanford said. Electronic learning resources, such as online textbooks, are now the norm. Redesign of classrooms is necessary just to handle the energy delivery.

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