A much-needed $39-million bond to rebuild and redesign Westwood's aging and outdated schools lost on May 4 by five votes – 410-415.
Too much is at stake – and the vote too close – not to come right back and put the bond before voters again in November. That's what members of the Facilities Advisory Committee will ask the Westwood School Board to do on Aug. 12.
There's no reason to wait until May or November of 2020. Interest rates and construction costs are favorable now.
Delaying the project will just postpone educational opportunities for the 1,500-student district, as Michael Page, chairman of the Facilities Advisory Committee, said this week.
There's also plenty of time for architects to tweak the plan, which community members, including students, worked on for a year. The advisory committee will put on another community meeting July 10.
Based on community input, architects have already designed more defined entrances for middle and high school students. In another revision, sixth-graders will have a separate space within the middle school.
A 21st century re-do is long overdue. Some parts of the Westwood Independent School District were built in the 1950s. Its last major reconstruction project took 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With numerous entrances and static learning spaces, the design of the campus, four schools, and classrooms is seriously outdated.
“Our needs didn't go away after the election,” Westwood Superintendent Wade Stanford said this week.
Passing a bond is rarely easy; many school districts fail on the first attempt.
Supporters of the plan need a real sense of urgency. A narrow defeat should have shaken any complacency out of them.
The advisory committee is expanding to increase its “circles of influence,” Page said.
Using small neighborhood meetings and social media platforms, committee members need to do a better job of pointing out the instructional advantages of the plan's more flexible, open, and multi-purpose learning spaces, including glass walls and mobile desks.
They also need to better explain how the project will benefit everyone. The campus will become a true community center, with a new auditorium/performing arts center, meeting spaces, and a third gymnasium to accommodate practices and tournaments.
Paying off the bond issue, not to exceed 30 years, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home – slightly below the Westwood average – about $31 a month, or $372 a year. It would raise taxes for the so-called interest and sinking fund by about 49.1 cents.
Construction, taking about three years, would be staged to avoid disrupting classes. The rebuilding plan would buttress the district for the next 40 years.
School board members will never make a more monumental decision – or one that's easier.
On Aug. 12, call the bond – again.