I would like to start this article by taking the opportunity to say thank you to five individuals that tirelessly support our school system with very little recognition. Alfred Menchaca, Eli Castillo, Natalia Ramon, Martin Palacio and Leslie Klaerner have worked diligently during this hot summer preparing our facilities for some much needed maintenance and technological upgrades. Our financial focus during the past five years has been geared more to building a fund balance than addressing maintenance issues; however we feel comfortable with our financial position at this point and are moving forward with some facility improvements.
The most substantial addition to our infrastructure this summer will be with the addition of a Voice over Internet Protocol system throughout the district. This is simply a fancy name for a new phone system that will integrate our computer network with our telephones. This system allows for a phone to be placed at any location where a computer drop is available. The project will be partially funded by stimulus funds from the federal government and will make phones available in most core teacher’s classrooms. This will allow for more effective teacher/parent/student communication.
We also have developed a comprehensive punch list of numerous maintenance issues identified throughout the district. Improvements to the cafeteria, hallways, restrooms, baseball and football fields and weight rooms have been targeted for some long overdue facelifts. We have contracted with a state procurement company to help address some of these needs. One of our portable buildings has been replaced and will house our Pre-K program that was funded by the award of the Pre-K Expansion Grant. Another portable has been leased to meet the needs of the Mason ISD daycare.
We are still in the planning stages for the replacement of the portable buildings that house a number of our Jr. High classes. A new wing is being planned that would address some Jr. High science and art needs that exist in addition to removing the portable buildings. This wing would not require an increase in taxes and would be funded by fund balance reserved for future construction projects in the district. Looking further down the road, a new elementary will be necessary by 2015. The goal of the district is to retire any outstanding debt before considering any new obligations. The fact that the building will be in excess of sixty years old and all debt should be retired by 2015 makes that target date plausible.