Tyler ISD facilities: 'There are so many challenges' - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Tyler ISD facilities: 'There are so many challenges'


Tyler Proud, the organization that supports the bond, says this proposal is, students aside, all about the facilities.

It's been the key argument they have presented when asking voters to approve the bond.

They say new facilities will enhance the students' learning experiences and promote a healthier education overall.

A big concern for the district is the middle schools. Five of the six middle school buildings were built between 1955 and 1964. The last major renovations were made to them in 1985.

As of March 2013, the campuses ranged in enrollment from 516 students at Stewart Middle School to 928 students at Moore. Three of the six campuses are over the functional capacity they were designed for.

"Our goal would be to balance out the district," said Tim Loper, Tyler ISD's Director of Facilities Services.

To do that, the district hopes to divide Tyler into four quadrants. New middle school campuses would be built at the existing Boulter and Moore Middle School locations, and a brand new middle school would be built on land the district owns in the southwest quadrant of the city.

"We are actually building them for a functional capacity of 1,000 students in each one," Loper said. "And currently, we would populate these schools for around 800, 850 students, which would give us room for growth."

The bigger piece to the middle school puzzle is safety. Both Moore and Boulter have an open-air design concept, and while there are multiple security cameras around both campuses, district officials say they are hard to secure.

"Basically, the classrooms open to the outside," Loper said. "Even you could walk up from any corner of Moore Middle School and be on that campus."

Loper says the district would likely build two-story, completely enclosed structures to replace Boulter and Moore.

In effect, the new plan is an old-school approach.

"It's almost like we've gone back to the 1930s when they built buildings," Loper said. "Because if you think about Hogg, it had all-enclosed corridors, and we had access points. We just didn't have the technology."

"When you're trying to teach a 21st century student, and you're trying to basically revitalize an old building, there's so many challenges," said Claude Lane, principal of Moore MST Magnet School.

Lane walked me through the campus to show me the challenges  - challenges like exposed wiring, frayed carpeting, uneven and mismatched tiles where rooms have been expanded and a lack of storage space.

Lane says the school has outgrown its infrastructure. Since there's not enough sidewalk room, kids often walk across what's left of the grass and dust often blows into open doors.

There are 20 portable buildings at Moore - the most of any TISD campus. There are covered walkways around the main building but not any going to the portables.

"It's not easy for a student to carry a backpack and an umbrella and things like that. They're getting wet," Lane said. "Obviously on cold days, they're getting wet and cold."

"You are isolated in a portable building to that building and away from the main campus," Loper said. "That's the reality of it. And it's got to be scary. If we have inclement weather or if we have tornadoes in the area, they have to go to the safest place they can, which is in the main building. And a lot of these buildings have a lot of glass in them."

And that includes Moore.

"This is actual glass, but this is plexiglass," Lane said, tapping the windows.

Lane says learning in the portables is also a challenge.

"The portables are smaller. There's not enough room to teach the way we want to teach nowadays," Lane said. "We're not into lecturing and sit and get. We want kids up and we want them moving around. We want them working in cooperative groups. We want them using technology."

Currently, 137 of the 155 portable buildings in the district are in use. District officials say they don't know how many portables will be left if the bond passes. It's safe to say the 50 portables currently at Rice, Dixie, Boulter, and Moore will go. The district hopes to reduce the number of portables at the other middle school campuses by half, but they won't know if they can until they see enrollment numbers for the 2015-2016 school year.

At the end of the day, Lane says he knows what really impacts his students....

"I do think that teachers, principals, school personnel, people are what make the difference with the kids and not necessarily a building," he said. "But the building can enhance or it can take away."

The bond would also create is a Career and Technical Education Center.

The school district says that center would be a first and would let their programs, like cosmetology and auto-collision-and-repair, dictate the design of the facility instead of the opposite.

The district also plans to "keep their promise to voters" and renovate Dixie and Rice Elementary Schools.

If the bond passes, the district plans to have all new facilities open by the fall of 2015.

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