Westwood

Westwood ISD Superintendent Wade Stanford says the district's buildings and design served it well in the 1960's, 70s, and 80s, but don't meet today's educational and security needs. 

Members of the Westwood school board on Thursday will consider putting a $40-million bond on the Nov. 5 ballot, after voters narrowly defeated practically the same plan in May. That bond lost by five votes, 410 to 415.

Board members will likely call the bond again, advancing a plan to rebuild the district's aging buildings and reconfigure the schools' outdated design.

An action by the board to call the bond, not to exceed 30 years, is almost certain, as school board members have expressed solid support for the plan. Board members will act Thursday, after hearing the recommendation of the Facilities Advisory Committee.

Last month, Chairman Michael Page of the Facilities Advisory Committee said committee members would recommend putting the bond back on the ballot.

Westwood's school board meeting will take place 12:30 p.m. in the central office administration building, 4524 W. Oak St.

The cost of the previous $39-million bond proposal rose by $1 million, due largely to inflationary costs, Westwood Independent School District Superintendent Wade Stanford told the Herald-Press Monday.

Overall, the owner of a $100,000 home – slightly below the Westwood average – would see a property tax increase of $23.02 a month, if the bond passes. That's actually down considerably from the $31-a-month increase district officials estimated last spring for the same home.

The reduction is due largely to a new state law, effective in September, as well as additional state revenue, that will reduce taxes for maintenance and operations, allowing that portion of the local school tax to drop.

The $40-million bond plan, worked out over the last year by dozens of community members, including students, remains essentially the same as the one residents voted on in May. If approved, it would fund the district's first major construction project in 40 years. Westwood serves about 1,500 students.

After the bond's narrow defeat, district officials, responding to community concerns, tried to include separate entrances for high school and junior high school students in the plan. The proposed change, however, became “cost prohibitive,” Stanford said, requiring significant changes in the plan's overall design.

Members of the community advisory committee have said the plan would meet the district's education and security needs for the next 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 would offer the instructional advantages of more open, flexible, and multi-purpose learning spaces, including glass walls and mobile desks.

To bolster security, the rebuild also 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.

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 an 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.

Critics have called the plan larded with unnecessary expenses, such as a new high school and gymnasium.

Westwood's last bond – extending 20 years – was paid off in 1998.

If voters approve the bond, construction will take about three years and be staged to avoid disrupting classes.