Local bond elections seemed to be blowing in the air in 2017 as area schools sought to update and expand their facilities. As Grayson County public schools continued their upgrades, Grayson College also undertook improvements including a new dorm and other buildings. And, Austin College embraced change by welcoming a new president.


Sherman ISD bond


Sherman voters decided against the $308 million bond intended to overhaul the Sherman Independent School District during the Spring election. The final tally was 2,050 for the bond and 2,195 against — a difference of just 145 votes.


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 $308 million bond package, which would have been completed over roughly 20 years and in three construction phases, 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. Sherman ISD identified aging facilities and overcrowded campuses as the district’s most pressing needs, and, in 2016, assembled a committee of community members to help develop a bond to address those specific issues.


Under the proposed bond, taxes for the average Sherman homeowner, whose house and property are worth $88,000, would have been raised by roughly $17 per month or $202 each year. The district’s interest and sinking tax rate would have increased from its current 27 cents to 50 cents per $100 valuation — the maximum allowed by the state.


The newly approved $176 million package will feature districtwide technology updates, a new high school facility, and the reconfiguration of the middle schools and elementary schools 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 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.


Area bond proposals


Pottsboro voters struck down a base $54.7 million bond package in November, as well as a higher priced option meant to update aging and increasingly crowded facilities throughout the Pottsboro Independent School District. In the final tally of the election, 1,156 people voted against the $54.7 million bond proposal and 567 voted in favor of it.


The proposed package included a new elementary school; districtwide technology upgrades; and renovations and additions to the middle school, high school, athletic facilities, and the old intermediary school, which would have been converted into the district’s new administration building. Voters also struck down a secondary proposition to add a $4 million, multipurpose athletic facility. Had voters approved the $54.7 million package, the district’s interest and sinking tax rate would have grown from its current 11 cents to 39 cents, placing the overall tax rate at $1.43 per $100 property valuation.


The S&S Consolidated Independent School District will be getting a new middle school campus after the district’s bond passed with 57 percent of the vote. Voters showed their approval for the $20.5 million bond with an unofficial election result of 525 votes for and 394 votes against.


The current middle school was first constructed in 1939 with an addition in 1955 and another addition in the 1960s. S&S CSID Superintendent Roger Reed said he believes voters approved the bond because of the reality of an aging facility. The new campus will serve fifth through eighth grade and will be built on district-owned property in Sadler.


The bond will be funded by a tax rate increase from the current 13 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation to 45 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation. For homes with an appraised value of $100,000, the monthly impact will be $20.25. The monthly impact is an estimate and based on expected bond market conditions at the time of the bond issuance.


Howe ISD voters overwhelmingly supported a $17 million bond with 71.74 percent in favor and 605 residents turning out to vote. The bond will be used to build a new elementary school to keep up with growth. The new school will have pre-K through second grade and serve up to 400 students.


The bond will be funded through an increase in the district’s tax rate. The rate will be increased from $1.395 per $100 valuation to $1.569 per $100 valuation for next year if the bond passes.


Grayson College Building Projects


Grayson College managed to embark on a number of building projects in 2017 without the use of additional bonds. Among these projects — a new dorm, viticulture laboratory and student success building are set to be constructed.


Construction on the new dormitory is currently underway. The dorm will be located at the back of the campus near the Culinary Arts Building and existing Viking Hall dormitory. The residence hall will be the first built since the construction of Viking Hall.


The dormitory will include a general lounge area, as well as single occupancy, double occupancy and suite-style rooms with a capacity of 99 beds. Adding the capacity of Viking Hall, the college will be able to house a total of 185 to 200 beds, depending on the mix of male and female students.


The Grayson College board of trustees recently discussed potential plans to expand program offerings at the college. With the upcoming addition of a new dormitory on campus, Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said opportunities for additional sports and educational programs will be available.


“Currently, we are full in our dorm,” McMillen said. “If you’re recruiting for a baseball player, you would recruit a friend and a half. One or two other students are usually recruited and that is a good thing for having programs. Or even if it’s an arts student or a band student or a music student, they wind up doing that as well.”


The student success building will be located directly behind the college’s current administration building. Designed as a place for students looking to enroll at the college, it will flow easily into other existing buildings on campus. The building’s location and elevator will also serve to improve the handicap accessibility on campus.


The college’s IT department and Writing Center, which currently occupy student study spaces on a temporary basis, will move into the student success building and free up space in the library.


The viticulture laboratory will replace outdoor storage with a flexible and fully-enclosed area, upping the building’s overall square footage. It will be located alongside the current Viticulture and Enology center located at the West Campus at Perrin Field.


Advanced Manufacturing


A joint effort between schools and local manufacturing companies, the Advanced Manufacturing Program places area high school students in the program during their sophomore year. The students take introductory classes on their respective campuses, before moving over to Grayson College full-time for more advanced courses.


Grayson College broke ground on its Advanced Manufacturing Lab earlier this year. The Advanced Manufacturing Lab joins the other building projects currently expanding Grayson College’s offerings.


The Advanced Manufacturing Lab will serve as the brick-and-mortar heart of the Advanced Manufacturing Program, which was launched at the start of the 2016-2017 school year and is meant to equip high school students with the knowledge needed to enter the industrial workforce through a series of classes and an internship. Organizations involved in the program include 30 employers under the Texoma Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, the Sherman Economic Development Corp., the Denison Development Alliance, Workforce Solutions Texoma, Grayson College and multiple high schools. The program accepted 12 students during its first year and is expected to enroll more than 25 young people for the coming academic year.


The $1.4 million Advanced Manufacturing Lab is set to open this month and will take the form of an addition to Grayson’s current Career and Technology Center. The 6,500-square-foot building will house large industrial machinery, classrooms and storage space, and will largely be used to educate students participating in the Advanced Manufacturing Program.


The New Blue Academy is structured as a three-year educational, certificate program. Students enroll in the program at the start of their sophomore year, taking two classes — technical calculations and blueprint reading for machinists — at their high school. Come junior and senior years, the students take on more courses, all of which are held at Grayson College. Students must then complete a summer internship following their graduation from high school. Once all courses and requirements are completed, the students will receive 41 college credit hours and both a basic and advanced manufacturing technology certificate.


Austin College gets new president


Austin College officially named Steven O’Day its 16th president in August. O’Day is the successor to Marjorie Hass, who served the college for eight years. Hass left in late June to assume the presidency of Rhodes College in Tennessee. That move was announced last December and the AC board immediately began work to find the next president of the college.


O’Day comes to Austin College from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, where he held the position of vice president for strategic initiatives and secretary of the college. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Millersville University in Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctor degree from Temple University School of Law. After 10 years in a law career, he began his journey with higher education as a women’s soccer coach at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.


“I see our path forward as one rich with opportunities but not without its challenges,” O’Day wrote in an email to students. “I look forward to tackling those challenges, together, with an unshakable resolve and celebrating our successes for years to come.”


Denison ISD growth


Denison Independent School District announced an increase of 113 students for the 2017 — 2018 school year in September with that number continuing to grow. Superintendent Henry Scott said it is the biggest jump in enrollment that the district has experienced in a number of years.


Scott said this is both exciting and concerning as Denison elementary schools continue to inch toward their maximum capacities.


“There is nothing right now that we need to do,” Scott said. “But if we see the same trend next year, the board needs to develop a plan to deal with that. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re getting more housing and that growth is going to generate more students. We can handle up to 500 at both campuses, but if it gets over 500 we’re going to have to do something.”


With the addition of 39 students at Hyde Park Elementary, the school is currently at around 445 students. An addition of another 40 students next year would put them near capacity. The board believes the multifamily housing at Gatewood is affecting the growth for Hyde Park Elementary. The region is expected to continue growing in years to come.


Additionally, Mayes Elementary added around 20 students bringing them to approximately 450 students. Board President Randy Sedlacek said the district is excited to have the students while also being aware that action may be needed in the future.