By Christine Foster
The July 29 meeting of the Belton school board covered a number of issues with reports from the close of last year and the projections for the coming year. The meeting was held at the new Highpoint Elementary School and the first order of business was a tour of the facility. Grade levels at this school are indicated by a color-coding system in the halls.
The school also has a state of the art computer room, an expanded library and a science lab. The school will open in August with an enrollment of approximately 600 students. The eventual capacity for Highpoint will be 792.
High Point Elementary is the first of three schools to be built as a result of the 2012 bond issue. North Belton Middle School and Chisholm Trail Elementary will open in the fall of 2014.
“I’m excited to welcome our students to the campus next month,” said High Point Elementary principal Amy Armstrong. “With flexible learning spaces for each grade level, our teachers will prepare their classes to excel in tomorrow’s world.”
Following the tour, Jeannette Kelley of the Helping Hands Ministry gave a presentation on Project Apple Tree. This is one of HHM’s endeavors that provides school children of the HHM clients a backpack with their school supplies, and an outfit of clothes to start the school year. This is the 13th year that this program has been in place and to this date over $7,000 has been raised for the upcoming school year. Aug. 12 is the distribution date for Project Apple Tree which serves l,450 children in the Belton area.
The awards portion of the meeting honored FFA students who were recognized by the Texas FFA Association. Kyler Tormey received an $18,000 scholarship from the Houston livestock and rodeo show to be used at Texas A&M. Tristan Beal, Whitney Bushing, Emily Firebaugh, Ashley Meyers, Callie Riehl, Ben Simpson, Evan Smith, Johnathan Templeton and Ashley Winkler received the Lone Star degree, the highest degree of membership that can be awarded by the Texas FFA.
As the meeting progressed, the final approval and acceptance of the Highpoint School was made by a unanimous vote of the school board.
“This will look much better when it is filled with children,” said Randy Pittenger, school board president.
Brief construction observations were made about Chisolm Trail Elementary where the site pad is complete and North Belton Middle School where the foundation is finished and the ground fixtures are in place. The block gymnasium wall is also under construction at that site.
Some issues do exist regarding the road and sidewalk access at Chisholm Trail. These expenses are shared with the City of Belton with more than $120,000 being the school district’s responsibility. This cost was not part of the original bid so the board voted to seek a variance from the city on the sidewalk project.
An anti bullying topic was the next item on the agenda. Tigo, the BISD mascot, appeared at the meeting as the website that has been created for the school district, parents and students was unveiled. This website addresses the 2011 legislative concerns and narrows the definition of bullying.
The athletic report of the last school year was one of the high points of the meeting. Athletic Director Rodney Southern began his presentation with the following statement, “Our goal last year was that all teams be in the top three of their sport.” He concluded his segment of the meeting with the observation that, “Of the 21 sports in the district, Belton finished in the top three in 17 sports and was champion or runner up in 15 other categories.
Southern also commented on the situation with UIL. In February, UIL will realign the school districts. This will mean that BHS will remain a large 5A school or become a small 6A school. This will affect the BHS athletic programs.
Human resources were briefly discussed as the board noted that there are seven teaching positions not yet filled. An interesting point was made that a full 25 percent of the educators in the BISD system are UMHB graduates.
The BISD finances were the final item that was introduced. It costs $7,626 to educate each student per year which Pittenger observed, “Is below average spending for above average state results.”
The projected budget for the next school year is approximately $130 million in a school district with almost $3 billion in assessed property valuations.
For the past year, BISD residents have been paying a school tax rate of $1.52, this will be reduced to $1.45 giving almost all BISD residents a tax decrease for the year.