Westwood residents will vote on a $38 million bond in November, thanks to thorough research and planning by the school district’s long range planning committee. Approved by Westwood’s school board in August, the proposed bond issue provides funding that addresses district-wide safety, accessibility, academics and building maintenance.
If the bond passes, the first phase of construction on entrances of all four buildings will begin in early 2022 to improve campus safety and accessibility. The district is working with Fitzpatrick Architects, Pfluger Architects, and Jackson Construction.
Most of the funds will finance expansion and renovation of Westwood Junior High School, which currently serves seventh and eighth grade students. The junior high expansion may begin in the summer of 2022 and continue into 2024.
The junior high campus is currently spread out among six buildings, with long open walkways where students pass between classes, activities, the cafeteria, and the library. Two buildings are portables that house classrooms. The expansion will also allow band students to stay on campus instead of crossing Panther Drive to the high school for daily practices.
“We looked at the front of every campus to improve accessibility and restrict access to move traffic into one area so that it can be monitored,” said committee member David Brooks.
The Long Range Planning committee started meeting regularly in October 2020 to research long-term needs of Westwood schools. A diverse group of residents, educators, and students participated, including some who led opposition to the district’s $40 million bond proposal in 2019.
Mendi Perry, who led the Westwood ISD Watchdog group opposing the bond proposal in 2019, said the committee’s members listened to each other and considered their own and the community’s concerns in the bond proposal.
The group audited all four aging campuses and worked on recommendations to begin the initial phase of what would be a multi-phase project.
“It’s a totally different bond proposal than what it was before,” said Perry, noting she was the first on the committee to recommend the bond proposal to the school board in August.
“Everything that could be done to restructure this bond proposal for the things that they had asked for has been done,” Perry said. “Anyone who had a problem with the structure of the previous bond proposal should not have a problem any more. That’s all been addressed.”
Two prior bond proposals were defeated by voters in May and November of 2019.
If passed, the projected monthly tax increase on a $100,000 home would be $23.19.
Enrollment on the committee was open to everyone who wanted to participate, including students. At one meeting the committee listened to a panel of students of different grade levels. At another, they boarded a bus and toured the school buildings.
Committee members are proud of their hard work and believe the Westwood community will have more reasons to approve the bond proposal.
“This was the absolute, in my opinion, most well-thought-out plan that I have ever seen in my life when you’re dealing with this amount of money,” Brooks said.
Superintendent Wade Stanford participated in the committee’s meetings but often abstained from voting so the community would not think he influenced the decisions. He praised the committee’s dedication and hard work.
“That group exceeded the work and effort of any group I’ve been around,” he said.