LHISD Board gets new look, new leader

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Managing Editor

The Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees welcomed two new members – Kendall Carter and Terry Smith – to their first meeting Monday after a swearing-in, and elected new officers, unanimously selecting Megan Parsons as the new Board President.

Board member Kathy Major was named Vice President and Anthony Buck Secretary.

Campus Expansion Plans
Among the first key decisions the new board made was to approve moving forward with designing expansions for Liberty Hill Elementary and the Intermediate campus as it transitions to a new elementary campus.

The unanimous decision to move forward doesn’t mean the campuses will be expanded, but designs will be in place should that be the direction the district chooses in the near future.

“Depending on what we decide in the future as far as elementary campuses we’re going to have to hit the ground running with our demographic projections,” said Superintendent Steve Snell. “What we’re coming to you today with is to start the design process to bring them up to 900 student (capacity), which is what the rest of our campuses can flex to.”

The design of the expansion will take roughly five to six months, and with plans completed and ready to go, projects could move forward much quicker.

“Should we have a successful bond in May and this is part of that bond, that we can hit the ground running with the bid process and move into building to have it ready a year from August,” Snell said. “We feel if we wait until a bond passes to start the design work we would be behind a couple of months and might not be ready for the amount of growth we have.”

Many options for accommodating growth are being discussed, but expanding these two campuses have advantages.

“These are the two fastest opportunities to get elementary seats built,” said engineer Casey Sledge. “A new campus would take longer, and because you have enough money left over in the 2018 bond you can also choose to start now using those funds.”

Aside from eliminating the need for portables on those campuses with the greater capacity, there are other advantages for students at those campuses as well.

“The facilities committees are actively discussing this now,” Sledge said of the capacity question. “Clearly these schools have the capacity of a little over half of your newer schools and the term equity has come up quite a bit. It’s not just capacity, there are other things. It’s a much different library experience, there are different outside experiences and the cafeterias are different.”

No decision has been made on whether to call a May 2021 bond election, or how much it might be for, but if it goes forward the decision will have to be made by early February 2021.

The Board also approved a new agreement with Sledge Engineering for facility planning services for possible future projects, as well as program management for the design of the expansion projects. The contract is for $12,000 for facility planning and a fee of 2 percent of the actual programming cost of the expansion projects.

School naming
The district will soon be soliciting suggested names for the fifth elementary school with the Intermediate campus transitioning to an elementary campus, and also for the new middle school.

“The Board will officially name those, maybe as early as December,” Snell said. “I’ll put out something asking for community input on the naming of our schools. It will be like a Google Form, here’s the name I think, here’s my name and contact information and here’s why I want to name the school this, so we can give that person credit should we choose that name. I think we’ll get some good input from our community.”

FIRST Rating
For the fourth consecutive year, LHISD has received a Superior FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) Rating, this year scoring a 92 out of 100.

The district is rated on 15 indicators, and the information obtained from financial audits, PEIMS reported data, and other governmental entities.

The rating covers areas such as financial and audit-related opinions, cash and investments, financial ratios, fund balance, debt management, administrative costs and staffing levels.

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