In the shadow of the Ysleta Independent School District’s centennial celebration in 2015, voters were asked to support the district’s ambitious promise to transform its schools into environments for 21st-century learning and innovation by 2020 through the passage of a $430.5 million facilities bond.
Voters overwhelmingly agreed – and within weeks of the bond’s passage in November 2015, YISD began the first phase of its work in earnest to upgrade, renovate, expand, or construct modern schools and facilities in each of its seven Learning Communities, with an initial end date of Fall 2020.
In actuality, it would take little more than four years to complete all YISD Bond 2015 projects.
They come to a close in January 2020 – several months ahead of schedule – with the completion of a new Fine Arts facility at Ysleta High School, and a new multi-story sports complex at Bel Air High School.
Aside from infrastructure and technology improvements, high-school athletics facility upgrades, new kitchen/cafeterias gymnasiums, fine-arts spaces, and classroom wings across the district, YISD Bond 2015 also funded the construction of three new schools in the Riverside, Bel Air, and Del Valle communities, as well as the renovation of Parkland Middle School.
The largest bond project was a $93-million overhaul of Eastwood High School, which saw a near-complete renovation of the landlocked campus.
These new and renovated campuses are spacious and designed for effective instruction, with flexible walls and furniture, open lounges and areas for project collaboration, and modern classrooms equipped with smart technology.
YISD promised to deliver projects in accordance with these four pillars of performance for each project: To be on time, under budget, of superior quality, and – where possible – performed by local labor.
“I believe this bond has been managed better than any other that I’ve ever been associated with,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Xavier De La Torre told employees at the annual YISD Convocation on Aug. 20.
“In two or three short months, maybe four, we conclude all of those big projects we asked the community to support in 2015.”
Now, the YISD Board of Trustees has decided to go back to voters this November, seeking approval of a proposed $425 million facilities bond to begin the second phase of its plan to transform schools into innovative and modern learning environments.
“We have arrived at Phase Two of our bond program. It’s the same bond program, just Phase Two,” Dr. De La Torre said.
Possible projects for this proposed 2019 bond measure were recommended by the Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC), a special task force made up of about 80 community members from across YISD that included parents, community and business leaders, representatives from civic organizations, and elected officials.
The FAC’s recommended projects for the proposed $425 million bond are:
• Safety/security enhancements
• Districtwide refrigerated air conversion and life-cycle improvements
• New Hanks area middle school
• New Riverside area elementary school
• New Scotsdale Elementary School
• Modernization of Bel Air High School
• Renovation of Dolphin Terrace Elementary School
The FAC convened six times between May and August, spending numerous hours visiting campuses and carefully considering possible bond projects and the physical condition of YISD schools, also known as the Facility Condition Index (FCI).
Overall, the FCI scores of YISD campuses ranged from 10.9 (best) to 69.9 (worst).
The average FCI score of schools selected by the FAC for the proposed 2019 bond measure was 54.
“I’m very proud, given the events that have happened, to have been part of this committee,” said Manuel Moreno, who joined fellow FAC member Marlene Gallegos in presenting their recommendations to the YISD school board at its regular workshop on Aug. 12.
“Having diversity and a sense of togetherness and a common goal, we accomplished a tough task,” Moreno said.
“This certainly exemplifies democracy and the values this country was built on.”
In recommending the board call for a bond election in November, Gallegos told Trustees, “I know there are going to be some challenges, but I think we can overcome them. Because we are El Paso. We are The District.”
Election Day for El Paso County is Nov. 5, with early voting taking place from Oct. 21 to Nov. 1.