With early voting set to start next week and Election Day on May 6, the Sherman Independent School District has used a variety of methods to pair the public with information regarding the $308 million bond up for vote, which aims to overhaul the district's facilities and campuses.

(Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify the estimated cost of constructing a new high school. The new high school would cost $146 million, based on construction cost estimates for 2018.)

With early voting set to start next week and Election Day on May 6, the Sherman Independent School District has used a variety of methods to pair the public with information regarding the $308 million bond up for vote, which aims to overhaul the district's facilities and campuses.

To get the word out about the bond election and share the facts, the district has mailed more than 23,000 informational fliers to Sherman voters, erected large signs on its campuses and posted information online. Then on Wednesday morning, the district hosted a community meeting in the Sherman ISD administration building, where district administrators fielded questions about the bond and its projects from around 75 attendees.

“Our intention with all of this is just to increase public awareness of the bond and the projects through facts, so voters can make an informed decision of their own,” Sherman ISD Director of Communications Emily Parks said. “We cannot advocate for or against (the bond). It's just simply to answer questions and provide information.”

Under the multimillion dollar bond, Sherman ISD has proposed a three-phase building plan meant to update the district's aging facilities. The first phase centers around the construction of a new high school capable of housing 2,100 to 2,400 students and a district-wide improvement of technology via digital devices and internet infrastructure updates. Phase two focuses on turning the current high school into a middle school for 1,000 students and the construction of two new elementary schools. The third and final phase aims to update the district's football stadium by way of a renovation or an altogether new stadium and improve multipurpose facilities. If the bond were to pass, the projects would likely be completed over the next 20 years.

With building a new high school the district's top priority, Parks said many of those who attended the community meeting Wednesday wanted to know about that project.

“There were a lot of questions regarding the project scope of the new high school, it's footprint and the cost,” Parks said.

Information provided by the school district indicates the new high school would sport a $133 million price tag base on 2016 construction costs, sit on more than 300,000 square feet and feature a large storm shelter capable of shielding all students and staff from 250 mph winds. (Construction costs for 2018 are estimated to be $143 million for the high school.) In March, the school district and the city of Sherman entered into an agreement giving Sherman ISD the option to purchase 98 acres of land for the new high school at the northeast corner of FM 1417 and OB Groner Road in Sherman. For its acreage, the school district will pay an estimated $2.65 million.

Parks said during the meeting, administrators were asked why the district decided to buy the property, when the bond vote could still go either way.

“The district will need to build at some point, whether it's with this bond or a future bond,” Parks said in response. “Going through that land acquisition process now ensures that we have that ability to meet the needs of the district when we get there.”

Many meeting participants also asked what the final cost of each project would come to and Parks said the district provided some clarification.

“We worked on helping the understanding of the difference between construction costs and project costs,” Parks said. “When you just look at construction costs, which is just putting up four walls and a roof and making sure we've got windows and doors. But then you have project costs, which ensure that you have furniture, adequate technology and all the soft costs you need to furnish and run a building.”

With early voting for the May 6 election just days away, Parks said the district will continue to post information on its website and social media accounts. She encouraged voters, regardless of their position on the bond, to look at the facts for themselves and head to the polls.

“We just ask that voters get informed, ask questions, find out all they can about this and then go out and vote,” Parks said. “Let us know what we as your district should do to move forward and provide the best learning opportunities for our kids.”