SSISD considers new campus
Board reportedly leaning toward building school for grades 3-5

Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

June 16, 2004 -- Sulphur Springs Independent School District trustess may be leaning toward consolidating grades three through five onto a new campus, but no decision has yet been made, according to SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton.

"The main thing to stress is that the district is still in the discussion stage and teachers will be involved in the design of buildings and renovations," said Bolton, named last week to fill the spot vacated by Dr. Mark Henry, who has taken the superintendent of schools position at Galena Park ISD. "Any of the plans we are working on are still in the design stage, and each week we are getting a little closer on this."

The school board continued discussions on reorganizing district facilities during a meeting Monday night. The session was a follow-up to a meeting last week when board members heard recommendations from architectural firm Claycomb Associates. The firm suggested constructing a new building to house grades three through five, as well as additions at Early Childhood Learning Center, Douglas Intermediate School and Sulphur Springs High School.

Architects estimate the proposal, dubbed "Plan C," would require a $32.5 million bond election in September to cover the construction costs.

Bolton said one benefit of the plan is curriculum alignment for grades three through five in relation to the new state mandated test -- the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam, which starts in third grade.

Monday night continued discussions on reorganization of grades in district facilities and construction of a new school, which would require a bond election.

"The main goal is to give the students appropriate instructional space and to give teachers an environment conducive to teaching," Bolton said. "The main priority is classroom management."

The plan recommends additions allowing all students from the 3-year-old Head Start program through kindergarten to attend classes at ECLC. The campus would also get a new music facility, as the one designated for that purpose when the building was constructed has since been reassigned to other programs. Music classes are currently held in what originally was a storage area.

First and second graders would be housed on the campuses of Bowie, Lamar and Travis elementary schools, which would receive some renovations.

Third through fifth graders would attend classes at a new facility constructed on property already owned by the district between ECLC and Sulphur Springs High School.

"When we talk about a campus for third, fourth and fifth grades, we are basically talking about three schools within one school, with each grade in its own wing," Bolton said.

The new facility would require some restructuring of streets and parking areas to accommodate traffic flow.

Claycomb Associates reported city officials are favorable to the idea of new streets and designs should a new facility be constructed. The architectural firm also anticipates the creation of three additional routes would cut down on traffic difficulties at both ECLC and SSHS.

Another element of Plan C is construction and location of an athletic track near the high school. Architects are still working on that plan.

"One area we have fallen behind on is the track," Bolton said. "The athletic department told the board in a meeting a couple of months back that the greatest need is a track on the high school campus, and that is appropriate for high school track activities."

Also at the high school would be the addition of some classrooms, as well as an up-to-date science lab to replace the current science rooms, which would then be converted to regular classrooms. Renovations to and expansion of the band hall would also be a consideration.

The district is also taking samples in an attempt to determine the cause of existing difficulties with the foundation at the high school.

"I don't think we've ever had a definite answer to the foundation problem," Bolton said. "We won't know how to fix it until we know what the problem is. It has been talked about in the past, but have not found a resolution."

Another reorganization of the current system under Plan C would be the reassignment of sixth graders to Douglas Intermediate School, which would receive six additional classrooms as well as a band facility.

Sulphur Springs Middle School would continue to house seventh and eighth grade students, with ninth through 12th graders still at SSHS. Austin Elementary School would likely become a multipurpose facility.

Claycomb Associates are expected to continue meeting with groups of teachers to ensure no areas are overlooked and that all needs are met, Bolton said.

The board will hold another special session Monday, June 21, at 6 p.m. in the board room at the Administration Building to continue discussions on the proposed plans.

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