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Jim Ned community divided over $20 million school bond election

By Jenna Rogers, Reporter, jrogers@ktxs.com
Published On: Nov 01 2013 10:37:10 AM CDT
Updated On: Nov 01 2013 08:26:37 PM CDT
TUSCOLA, Texas -

A $20 million bond election for Jim Ned CISD is dividing a community.

The Jim Ned school district encompasses 380 square miles, with elementary campuses in Lawn and Buffalo Gap sitting 15 miles apart.

A stroll down the tiny hallways of the campus in Lawn shows a clear need for improvement.

"There's plumbing issues, there's roof issues, there's electrical issues, there's space issues," said Jim Ned Superintendent Bobby Easterling.

Down the road in Buffalo Gap, the elementary school is way over capacity. Right now, there are about 250 students enrolled; around 100 more than the school was intended for. 

In fact, only one classroom meets the Texas Education Requirements. Neither school meets ADA requirements. There are no designated safety areas if a tornado strikes, or if a lock-down is necessary.

Parent Kevin Tutt said kids don't have any room to learn.

"We just need to give them a space to expand and our teachers to teach like they need to in a 21st century learning environment," said Tutt. "A consolidated elementary just makes a whole lot of sense."

Voters will decide next week whether to approve a new $20 million bond for a consolidated elementary in Tuscola that would address all of those issues.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $180 per year more in taxes for the new facility. That price tag is raising some eyebrows in the small communities.

Steve Parks, who has helped design schools in the big country for the past 40 years, said the price tag is too high.

"I looked at the square footage, I looked at the cost, did some quick math and I come up with $189 per square foot, and thought 'wow,'" said Parks.

Superintendent Bobby Easterling said construction costs actually add up to about $153 per square foot, still high compared to similar recent projects.

"Some people are saying it's too much but that's the number the board is working with," said Easterling. "It is a little higher but you do have escalation costs too so everyone is entitled to their opinion."

"We all want what is good for the children but [voters] also need to think about their pocketbooks," said Parks.

"I just don't want it to divide the community," said Easterling. "We're all Jim Ned Indians. After November 5th we'll still all be Jim Ned Indians, and we need to keep that together."

For all of the information on the bond, click here.