By LIBBY CLUETT
Mineral Wells ISD trustees are asking voters to approve a $25-million bond to improve school facilities in Tuesday’s uniform election. The outcome will largely determine the fate of Lamar Elementary School, which was built in 1955.
The bulk of the bond funds would go toward replacing the outdated elementary school building, but they would also address campus security – including building modifications as needed at other campuses – and would rebuild the Mineral Wells High School track.
If voters approve the proposed MWISD bond, the new elementary campus will be located on the same property as Lamar and will be designed to serve approximately 850 students. Lamar currently has 747 students and 11 portable buildings that have been around for numerous years.
Combined with the expertise of VLK Architects, the district used a volunteer Facilities Study Committee, made up of local business leaders, parents and former teachers, to help shape this bond package. In early 2013, the FSC toured each campus and met with VLK Architects to help identify the district’s greatest needs, long before trustees called for a bond election.
Kay Brown, a retired teacher, and Richard Ball, a business owner and president of the Industrial Foundation, were part of that committee and shared some thoughts with the Index.
“If someone hadn’t done it for us, we wouldn’t have had a school to go to,” Brown said. “Someone did it for us, so we are doing it for the future kids of Mineral Wells.”
But she said there’s more to the issue, which is why citizens need to go vote.
“We’ve got to address present-day issues. Lamar is an example of the way we used to build schools. Today, that is not going to meet our needs for a present-day campus,” said Brown. “There are many needs Lamar has now that we can’t address without a new campus.”
After examining the campus, the FSC concluded that renovations to Lamar – to address all needed conditions and standards – would exceed 60 percent of the value of a new school building, Brown added.
Additionally, Brown said the FSC identified security needs at other campuses.
“While we need to replace Lamar, we need security at all campuses,” she said. “We have to provide for our kids a secure environment at all campuses.”
As Industrial Foundation president, Ball sees another side of the need to replace Lamar and improve security at all campuses. He said schools are one of the first topics that arise for businesses looking to relocate in Mineral Wells.
“There are two scenarios when we are talking to prospective industries wanting to move to Mineral Wells,” he said. “They ask, ‘What about your schools’ and ‘What about your medical facilities.’”
Regarding schools, he said “They are looking for how modern they are. If the town is progressive it will have fairly new schools, and Lamar is very detrimental to that. For 18 years I’ve been doing this and it always comes up, ‘How are your schools doing and how modern are they.’"
With tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and other shootings and deadly incidents at schools around the nation, like Brown, Ball said security at all campuses is the top issue to address to try and prevent a similar situation from happening here.
“I just think, if we don’t get the bond issue passed and get security done at the high school and other schools, I hope we do not regret it later because we do not have security.”
Another aspect of the bond package is rebuilding the high school track. The ground under the track, like many other areas of the high school campus, has been affected by shifting earth. The result over the years is a track surface with cracks and warped areas. Because the track is not only vital to the school and hosting track meets, but is also used by the community – daily and for events like Relay for Life – the district wants to address it now.
For election-day voting information, see related stories.