GARNER – Garner residents attended a community meeting hosted by the school district staff and Architects Rabe and Partners on Tuesday evening.
Attendees asked questions about the district’s plan to build a secondary campus.
GISD Superintendent Rebecca Hallmark explained the background on the project, that parents indicated on a survey that they would send their kids to a GISD high school if one existed, and space needs at the current campus calls for a secondary campus for middle and high school grades.
The school board moved forward with a secondary campus and hired an architect firm. The board is considering calling a bond election, which would have to be done no later than Feb. 14 for the May election.
“We don’t want to lose what makes us Garner,” Hallmark said later in the meeting. “We don’t want to just spread out and say, ‘Here’s elementary, here’s junior high, here’s high school.’ We’re still going to be one school, one district. We’re not even trying to grow out of that. We want to be where every teacher knows every kid from pre-K through 12th, and that’s why [the campuses] are all tied together.”
Dale Rabe of Architects Rabe and Partners talked about the design elements in the proposed new building and renovated spaces. Initial plans include a new building east of the current campus, added parking west and northeast of the current campus and converting the current gym into a cafeteria/auditorium. The cafetorium would come with a stage and seating for 426 in the auditorium part and 352 in the cafeteria, Rabe said. The kitchen would be designed to fit the needs of a small staff, and the food delivery area would allow drivers to deliver food without accessing the campus completely.
The new building would have classrooms, a science lab, a special education classroom and teacher workroom. The secondary campus gym could be designed with moveable bleachers, seating 250 on the home side and 100 on the visitors’ side, for volleyball and basketball competitions, and when the bleachers are retracted, it opens up space for more basketball/volleyball courts, Rabe said. The spare courts could work for practice and P.E. classes. An agriculture building is also being considered.
Rabe encouraged the attendees to give their input on the design.
“Garner is a community school,” Rabe said. “You guys are the community, so we want to talk to you tonight about what we’re doing with this project and what we’re trying to accomplish. We want this to be a community effort, and we want the consensus of the community about what the school is going to do.”
One major concern brought up was the effect that the new campus and increase in students would have on traffic. Some expressed a concern for the safety of student drivers.
Garner resident Penny Eggleston, who lives on Old Garner Road, asked if any adjustments could be made to the road and said speeding needs to be deterred.
“No one pays attention to that school zone,” Eggleston said. “Cattle haul trucks go through there like it’s nothing. Little kids can be running up and down the fence line, and it’s just scary.”
Hallmark said the school district does not have the authority to make changes to Old Garner Road. Earlier in the meeting, she said student drivers already have to drive to Millsap High School once they graduate out of GISD.
A parent asked if their kids who have or will soon go to another school could come back to Garner for high school once the new building is ready. This is a possibility for some students, though the district is planning to start with off with maybe ninth and 10th grades at first, Hallmark said.
Keeping kids in GISD also allows the district to keep funding for students who are currently going to other school districts that educate former Garner students, Hallmark said.
School Board President Clay Youngblood said the board considered that if a high school isn’t built then GISD might have to consolidate with another school district.
“What we were hearing from school boards around is that you either have to move kids out or build,” Youngblood said. “When we start moving kids out, that means we become an elementary school only, and then eventually if that fills up, what do we do then? Well, we may have to consolidate with another district, and we become Garner Elementary of Peaster ISD and you get to pay their tax rate.”
The board is scheduled to consider more detailed plans on Thursday, and the Citizens Advisory Committee will meet on Feb. 4 to consider a recommendation on the project.