Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
After the $308 million bond failed in the spring election, voters approved a new $176 million bond package for Sherman Independent School District during Tuesday’s election. The bond passed with 2,548 votes for, or 57 percent of the vote, and 1,882 votes against.
The newly approved $176 million package will feature district-wide technology updates, a new high school facility, and the reconfiguration of the middle schools and elementaries to make use of the current Sherman High School building. The new high school will have a capacity of 2,300 students and will be over 453,000 square feet in size. The cost for the new facility is estimated at $157,871,390.
In addition to the new high school being constructed, the bond package will convert the old high school into a middle school. Piner Middle School and the new middle school will then each have room for sixth to eighth graders, thus allowing students to remain on one campus for a longer period of time than is currently possible.
The district plans to begin work soon on designing the new high school and implementing technology upgrades. Sherman ISD Superintendent David Hicks said work on technology will begin as soon as tomorrow.
“We will begin with improvements to our wireless access and our internet speed and capacity,” Hicks said. “This will be an immediate improvement for classroom instruction. Simultaneously, we’ll begin working on the new high school design with staff, student and citizen input as we try to craft not only the look of the school to be exactly what this community wants but also to make sure that academically our students have access to the very best education possible.”
Newly elected Sherman City Council member Willie Steele said the bond passing is a good thing for Sherman moving forward.
“More important than my election is the fact that that bond passed,” Steele said. “I was going to be really disappointed if it didn’t pass and it would have been a bad day for Sherman. We needed that on lots of different levels.”
The bond will be funded by a 21-cent increase in the tax rate. For those with a home valued at $100,000 this comes out to approximately an additional $17.50 per month. Tax rate increases were considered between 20 cents and 23 cents. The board settled at the 21-cent increase and said it would cover immediate concerns and allow some work to begin for the future.
The bond from May’s election failed by a difference of just 145 votes. The final tally was 2,050 for the bond and 2,195 against.
Hicks said the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was vital in devising a plan that would pass following the initial bond’s failure.
“I think it was key that our Citizen’s Committee expanded to include more voices,” Hicks said. “They were able to re-examine previous conversations and include new ideas. They did that so we can say the plan that we put forth to the voters was efficient and would address our most pressing needs.”
The previous bond package would have been completed over roughly 20 years and in three construction phases. It included a $146 million high school, districtwide technology upgrades, two new elementary schools and a $27 million improvement to Bearcat Stadium either by renovation or the construction of an entirely new arena.
Hicks went on to explain the previously proposed bond package was a long-term plan while the new package is designed to focus on immediate needs.
“It’s important to remember that the facility plan that our Citizen’s Committee proposed back in January was a long-range look,” Hicks said. “This plan is much smaller in scope. It addresses technology across the board and enrollment needs at some levels. It doesn’t address the age of our facilities, most notably our elementary schools and athletic facilities.”
Hicks explained the district is committed to executing the plan in a way that maximizes resources.
“It’s a historic day for our community and for the children in Sherman ISD,” Hicks said. “I’m pleased for our teachers who come to work every day and are dedicated to giving their very best. We always look forward to the future and we will continue to monitor our enrollment but our primary focus will be on delivering these two initiatives in an efficient way and also a way that maximizes our resources and provides the best educational opportunities for our students.”
Herald Democrat Managing Editor William C. Wadsack contributed to this report.