By Moses Leos III
Emotions hit a high point Monday as the Hays CISD school board of trustees for the first time discussed the final site for the district’s proposed third high school.
The board viewed a presentation by Public Information Officer Tim Savoy on the district’s site selection committee’s recommendation for the school. They will vote on the recommendation on March 28.
“This northwest site is not a perfect site, but it’s the best site,” Board president Merideth Keller said. “I look forward to Monday on voting for the northwest site.”
Carter Scherff, Hays CISD deputy superintendent, said if a site is selected March 28, the district will then go through a “competition” between two architectural firms on designing the school.
Scherff said the intent is to have construction plans ready within one year. The district plans to place construction of the school out to bid immediately following a possible May 2017 bond election.
On March 10, Hays CISD’s site selection committee recommended a site in the northwest portion of the district, located along FM 967, for the location of the new high school.
Hays CISD’s new high school, which will be part of a May 2017 bond, will cost approximately $100 million. According to Savoy, the district estimates the school could open as soon as August 2019.
The northwest site was one of two locations Hays CISD’s site selection committee discussed for the new high school. A northeast location, located in the Sunfield MUD, generated numerous concerns stemming from emergency response times to concerns over infrastructure.
The public expressed concerns about both sites during the selection process.
“This was a process where everyone in the community came together,” Savoy said. “This wasn’t easy, or cut and dry.”
Eleven people spoke Monday expressing their advocacy for the northwest site, citing the emergency response issue.
Buda Mayor Todd Ruge, along with Emergency Service District No. 8 Chief Clay Huckaby, both were in favor of the northwest site.
Huckaby advocated for a second entrance from the rear of the property.
According to Huckaby, there was “no push for a second entrance” currently, but said the location would accommodate a pair of entrances on FM 967.
Ruge said it was his belief that the northwest site was the “most viable location.”
“The other site presents some problems with infrastructure, emergency services and cost,” Ruge said. “In my mind, it makes it far less appealing than the northwest site.”
Kristen Lander, who also spoke during public comment, said the northwest site is the “best option to support a part of the district that is underserved.”
Clover Clamons, who lives behind the northwest site location, said the site was the “best site for the community and school district today.”
She asked the district to work with adjacent landowners, neighbors, along with Hays County and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), to address infrastructure and drainage issues.
Buda resident Jessica Vasquez said the site selection process was “emotional and raw” for her. Vasquez said an incident at Dahlstrom Middle School when her son blacked out and seized on the court showed the need for quick medical response.
Vasquez said she “refused” to put a child in a situation with an 11-minute response time, which was estimated for EMS service at the northeast site.
“If I had to sit there for 11 minutes and watch my child lay there, I would never be able to live with myself knowing I sent him to a school where, if something happened to him, if he would be safe,” Vasquez said. “Consider the safety of our children.”
Keller said she felt “mired” in the process leading to the site location.
She said the district should focus on being “good neighbors” in regards to the site selection. She cited the entrance and exit points behind the school.
“It’s extraordinarily important to be good neighbors to the folks who live behind,” she said. “There’s a lot of fear and concern, no matter where it goes.”
Board members Sandra Bryant and Marty Kanetzky both addressed working with Hays County on potential infrastructure matters.
But Keller also felt the process could have been “simpler” for the community if a comprehensive master plan was in place.
“We’re growing too fast and too large to not have that,” Keller said. “We’re one of the only districts that doesn’t have one. That’s ridiculous.”