By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
It may be the end of a calendar year, but it is only a half of a year gone by for Belton Independent School District. Though in that half of a year they have made many advancements and accomplishments. The staff, students and community help bring the school district where it needs to be and to always strive for new goals.
“In my opinion, the most significant accomplishment of 2015 was how our community came together to plan for Belton ISD’s future. Over the past two years, our school board members studied the projections for the district’s growth and the facilities needs that will come with that growth,” said Kyle DeBeer, communications director, Belton Independent School District. “This year, about 80 parents, educators and community leaders came together to discuss our shared values and to continue planning for that growth.”
The long-range facilities planning committee reached consensus on several points: Belton ISD is growing. As a result of that growth, Belton ISD will need a 10th elementary school and a fourth middle school. A second comprehensive high school will eventually be needed. Belton ISD values the breadth of career and technical education programs available for our students. Paying for new facilities will require increasing taxes. All of the materials from the long-range facilities planning committee’s meetings can be found on Belton ISD’s website at http://www.bisd.net/BISD2025
“In addition to the great work that the committee did planning for our future, the open and inclusive process was a reminder that we’re blessed to live in a community that supports our students. Because of that support and because we planned for it, Belton ISD has been able to successfully manage our fast-growth,” said DeBeer.
Susan Kincannon, Ed.D., superintendent, Belton Independent School District, said, “This has been a great year for Belton ISD, our students and staff. There is a lengthy list of accomplishments from the past year, but I think that these three stand out as the biggest stories of 2015.
First, we’ve been planning for the district’s future. Belton ISD grew by about 3,500 students over the last decade, and experts tell us to expect a similar increase in enrollment over the next 10 years. Building on more than a year of study and community listening sessions by our school board, a group of parents, educators and community leaders met to discuss the facilities that will be needed to serve those students. After an open, inclusive and thorough process, the committee arrived at a consensus that we’ll need additional elementary and middle school capacity by about 2019 and additional high school capacity by about 2021. In 2016, the school board and administrators will use the committee’s input to develop the long-range facilities plan that will guide Belton ISD to 2025.
Second, we’ve been expanding the educational opportunities for our students. Nowhere is this more evident than in our career and technical education program. In 2015, we added an engineering strand to the program, and high school students who complete the courses will graduate with an endorsement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2015, our SkillsUSA construction and forensic science teams took first place at the state competition, and the construction team continued on to place fourth at nationals. With 94 career and technical education courses, 57 advanced placement and dual credit courses, 22 fine arts and humanities courses and 20 different UIL Class 6A sports, Belton ISD provides unique and varied learning opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else.
Third, we’ve kept our commitment to be a good steward of your tax dollars. In 2015, Belton ISD refunded $7.84 million worth of bonds saving taxpayers more than $1.1 million in interest payments. Since 2010, we’ve refunded bonds six times saving a total of $7.5 million. This year we completed the district’s 2012 bond program, which included the construction of High Point Elementary, Chisholm Trail Elementary and North Belton Middle School for $3.1 million less than was budgeted. Belton ISD is one of more than 600 school districts challenging the state’s system of financing public education, and this year, that case was heard by the state supreme court. As a party to this lawsuit, we’re fighting for a school finance system that is equitable and fair for both students and taxpayers. A ruling in the lawsuit is expected in 2016.”
An agricultural barn was dedicated for the Future Farmers of America program members.
Other accomplishments were:
Belton New Tech High School @Waskow was recognized as the first Purple Heart School in the nation on December 14, 2015.