Trustees reject bid on building

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By SARAH SILBERSTEIN

Following a 53-minute closed session Monday, the Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reject a bid for the purchase of the former LHISD administration building.

The Board rejected Randall H. Riley’s $660,000 bid to purchase the 1.33 acre lot with the existing 10,110-square-foot two-story office building at 14001 State Highway 29 West. Trustee Jeff Madison abstained from the vote.

At Monday’s meeting, which was rescheduled from the previous week due to illness, Superintendent Rob Hart recognized Gerald Lorance for the role he played in leading a campaign to convince voters in May to pass a $35 million bond package for the school district. The bond money has been allocated for the construction of Rancho Sienna Elementary School, improvements to the agriculture facility, and other miscellaneous school improvement projects.

Lance Melton, Principal/Operations Director for Huckabee & Associates, and Project Manager Gabriel Rodriguez updated the Board on the status of the construction of the new elementary school and improvements to the agriculture facility.

A ground-breaking event took place Sept. 14 and construction of the exterior walls has already begun. The majority of the building will be constructed using insulated concrete form (ICF) which, Melton said, is both “thermally and structurally sound.” The construction is scheduled to be completed in time for Rancho Sienna Elementary School to open for the 2017 academic year.

“You can feel the building start to take shape,” Melton said.

District officials have said the new elementary school is needed as a result of enrollment growth. The district saw an enrollment increase of 205 students during the 2015-2016 academic year. According to Hart, the two current elementary schools are projected to exceed capacity by the start of the 2017 school year.

Improvements to the agriculture facility include a new show arena, restroom facilities, concession stand, storage area, composting facility, perimeter fence, and the addition of adjustable livestock pens.

Updates to existing structures include laying cement in the current show arena to accommodate additional livestock pens, fresh paint, updates to the electrical system, additional facility lighting, new water system for the livestock pens, and improvements to the driveway and parking lot.

Construction is scheduled to begin in February and is expected to be complete in August 2017. The sheep and goat projects will be displaced by the construction, but Melton said the Ag teachers have planned for alternative accommodations.

“I would love to hear his [Ag teacher Zach Brown] comments about the design and what it would take for us to have a grade A, tier one Ag program,” Madison said. “It’s pretty motivating to hear him talk about it [the Ag program].”

The Board unanimously approved two suggested revisions to clarify the wording of the Student Technology Acceptable Use Policy. LHISD Director of Institutional Technology Jay Olivier said that despite the clarity issues in the wording of the policy, the school district received “e-rate compliant” status and passed the most recent audit.

The Board also approved an adjunct faculty agreement with the Williamson County extension of AgriLife. The agreement allows students to count 4-H show projects as an extra-curricular activity.

Geronimo Rodriguez, Vice President of Diversity and Community Outreach at Seton addressed the board on behalf of Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH partners with area high schools to provide older special needs students with internship opportunities through the Seton Healthcare system.

Since the program began nine years ago, Project SEARCH at Seton has provided 118 special needs students with internship opportunities and boasts a 90 percent employment outcome, according to Rodriguez. This is the first year LHISD has partnered with Project SEARCH and the high school has two students currently participating in the internship program.

Rodriguez attributes the success of Project SEARCH to their business model, which is “focused on their [the students] abilities and not their disabilities.” The application period for fall 2017 begins in November.

LHHS Principal Mario Bye reported the success of the Sept. 14 Career Fair. Students participated in the half-day event by attending four sessions to learn about a variety of career fields. Bye said he received positive feedback from students, parents, and presenters.

Also Monday, the Board unanimously approved the employment of Kelly Keen to the position of high school nurse.

Trustees Shawn Roberts and Mike Bowles were not present Monday.

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