Members of the Westwood School Board will vote Monday on whether to put a $39-million bond on the ballot May 4. The bond issue, not to exceed 30 years, would rebuild and redesign aging buildings to meet the district's education and security needs.
School board members should approve the plan and move the bond to the ballot. Calling the bond would give district residents the chance to vote on Westwood's first bond, and major construction project, in 40 years.
Some parts of the district were built in the 1950s. With numerous entrances, the buildings were designed when teachers relied on chalkboards, education delivery was one-size-fits-all, and school mass shootings were unthinkable.
The new plan, worked out over the last year by dozens of community members, including students, would reconfigure Westwood's outdated design. It also would replace and rebuild buildings at the end of their construction life.
Still, tax increases are never popular, and supporters of the plan have their work cut out for them.
At last Monday's informational meeting, residents raised questions about the plan, especially its costs.
Paying off the bond would require the owner of a $100,000 house, slightly below the district average, to pay an additional $31 a month, or $372 a year.
School administrators, board members, and members of the Facilities Advisory Committee should sponsor several more informational meetings, before May 4. Individually, or in small groups, they should also meet with voters at their workplaces, churches, and other community sites.
A lot is at stake. The bond would pay for security, education, and infrastructure improvements that will buttress the 1,500-student district for the next 40 years.
The rebuild calls for far fewer entrances. Office staff could see outside buildings, and students would spend far less time walking outside to classes and the cafeteria.
School officials often tout the plan's security improvements. Students, however, seem more excited about the flexible and open learning environment, including glass walls and mobile desks that elevate to accommodate students' preferences.
Other features include a third gymnasium to handle basketball and volleyball practices, as well as tournaments. The plan would rebuild the high school to include a junior high with its own interior courtyard. The building would have two gyms and a common cafeteria, but separate dining areas for junior and senior high students.
An auditorium/performing arts center would house community events, junior and senior high band, and other activities.
In an interview with the Herald-Press, Westwood Independent School District Superintendent Wade Stanford acknowledged the bond was a “big ask.” But he also noted Westwood's last bond – extending 20 years – was paid off in 1998, giving taxpayers a 21-year respite from major capital investments.
That can't last forever.
The Westwood School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. in the elementary campus cafeteria, 2305 Salt Works Road. Before acting, board members will hear a report from the Facilities Advisory Committee.
Westwood has until Feb. 15 to file the bond proposal for the May 4 election.
Michael Page, chairman of the Facilities Advisory Committee, put it this way: The bond invests in the district's youth, and in the community; it's a legacy serving generations to come.
For any community, an enduring and enriching educational legacy is hard to walk away from.
Call the bond.