Why CISD students should care about May 7: Newest bond package could bring significant changes to district


In the fall of 2015, after witnessing the last leg of the 2013 bond plan put into action, the community begged the question: What’s next?

On May 7, 2016, they just might have their answer.

For approximately six months, a citizens bond committee comprised of parents, grandparents, business owners, teachers and community leaders worked with Coppell ISD staff to examine financial data and and review the needs of the individual schools in the areas of construction, capital improvement, renovation and technology needs.

After visiting the campuses and conducting detailed studies, the committee prioritized the needs of the district and came to a unanimous decision on a $249 million bond package, approved 6-0 by the CISD Board of Trustees, to be voted on by the community next month.  

“The school district is experiencing growth,” CISD Superintendent Mike Waldrip said. “Because of that growth we are beginning to reach student capacity in our schools, primarily our secondary schools like Coppell High School and our middle schools.”

In the last decade alone, CISD has seen a 2,000 student increase in population and estimates a 2,900 increase within the next 10 years. According to CISD assistant superintendent for administration Brad Hunt, the district recently enrolled its 12,000th student.

As depicted on the map, this is due to the expansion of CISD beyond Coppell’s normal city limits. Cypress Waters, the new development of single and multi-family homes near what used to be North Lake, is partly contributing to this growth.

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, the community witnessed the revival of a familiar name, Richard J. Lee Elementary School, built with the most modern technology of any CISD facility. This was the district initial response to the elementary growth coming into the district; the 2016 bond package plans to further this expansion in a multitude of ways.

To accommodate more students at the high school level, one of the primary provisions of the bond plan is to convert the existing Coppell Middle School West campus into a ninth grade center and construct a new CMSW near Cypress Waters, closer to the Lee Elementary campus using 30 acres of the 70 acres purchased by CISD in 2008.

The goal of the district is for this freshman center to operate separately from CHS, which means minimization of faculty and student travel between the two campuses. This will pull one grade level off of CHS and to act as an effective segue between the environments of middle school and CHS. Ninth grade learners at New Tech will remain at New Tech High.

“[For] our athletic programs and our fine arts programs, like band and choir, we are going to offer as much of those as possible to freshman at the freshman center,” Waldrip said. “There will be some situations where students are taking advanced courses or perhaps a freshman athlete may be far enough advanced where they can participate [in marching band or] on a varsity sports team . In those situations, we would transport those students back to CHS for participation.”

According to Hunt, to keep most of the freshman on campus, freshman teams would be relocated to the center. If the bond plan is approved, the freshman center is expected to take its first class during the 2018-2019 school year. If all goes according to plan, this year’s sixth graders will be the first to utilize it.

Leigh Walker, citizens bond committee member, Pinkerton PTO member and candidate for the CISD Board, is excited for her young children to experience the freshman center firsthand.

“I’m excited, I think it’s a great idea,” Walker said. “I wish my [current eighth grader] could be going through [the center], as well.”

When considering this center, many different options were put on the table, the freshman center being one of them. However, many parents are concerned about the longevity of this solution.

“I feel that the committee probably came up with the best solutions available to them but it comes really fast after another bond,” Pinkerton Elementary School PTO member Stephanie Schwantner said. “[I am concerned] that in three more years, we’ll be hit with another bond because we need another school.”

Despite this and other concerns, Waldrip is confident in the research of the 58 member committee.

“One of the things we did early on is contract a demographer to study our student growth patterns,” Waldrip said. “We’re using  the information he is providing to determine the growth patterns are and what kind of impact they will have on [CISD]. That’s driving a lot of our decision making process because his numbers show steady growth over the next 10 years or so.”

The 10-year growth numbers were adjusted and reported at the last board meeting to 2,900.

An option that surfaces each time a bond is proposed in the creation of a new high school, a model that reflects Waldrip’s previous district, Frisco ISD. However, at the moment, this is not a possibility for the district for financial reasons.

“The sentiment has always been that the citizens in Coppell wanted the ‘one high school experience’,” Waldrip said. “The citizens bond committee considered a second high school option and decided it wasn’t the best option.”

According to chief financial officer Kelly Penny, the cost of maintenance and utilities per year would be close to $11 million for a new high school. There are several school districts CISD looked to emulate while designing this plan, with Grapevine ISD being the primary one because of the similar sizes of the district.   

While the redistribution of the population through the freshman center and the new CMSW is the most prominent and costly part of the package, further upgrades to the high school are also on the horizon, namely fine arts facilities, locker rooms and bathrooms will be added to accommodate new enrollment and update existing facilities. There will also be an expansion of technology friendly environments, blended learning spaces and comfortable furniture in the hallways.

“We had meetings with CISD to guide our discussion of if we could change this campus, what are some things that we would like to do to it, knowing that we don’t have limitless funds to do it with,” CHS Principal Mike Jasso said. “One thing we talked about was creating more open collaborative space in common areas like in the hallways. We want to reconstruct the building to reflect the environment that we want.”  

Renovation of the Service and Network Operations Center, which is projected to improve wireless connectivity for laptops and iPads throughout the district is also a part of the bond package. Basic servicing for infrastructure and upgrades to technology, roofing, flooring, electrical, heating and cooling will occur throughout CISD.

Improvements in safety features, including lighting, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, security cameras and visitor access systems areas are a part of the plans for all campuses. CMS East will undergo a replacement of its existing track and turf as well as renovation and additional classroom space.

Although later in priority than the renovation and creation of secondary level spaces, there is a potential for the construction of a new elementary school or expansion of existing elementary schools to accommodate growth.

On the average Coppell home value of $312,000, these changes would be result to an estimated $25 a month increase in taxes. One hundred percent of the bond money (debt service side) will stay in CISD, unlike maintenance and operations dollars that are subject to Robin Hood for redistribution across the state.

If the bond does not pass, the district plans to go back to the board for a decision. Options might include a resubmission of the same proposal next election cycle (November), a re-work of the current proposal, manage the growth with what CISD currently has, among other options.

“In the interim, we would just have to make do with what we have,” Hunt said. “Obviously we won’t be able to have any construction unless a bond is passed.”

According to Waldrip, however, parents and community members seem to be receiving the plan well. If it is approved, a bond oversight committee will see to its correct implementation across the district.

Waldrip, as well as campus administration, encourages everyone to make an informed vote, whether that be for or against the plan. Early voting is from April 25 to May 3 and Election Day is May 7.
Visit www.coppellisdbonds.com for a breakdown of projects by facility and more information on any of the topics mentioned.