Gainesville ISD trying to renovate on a budget

Apr. 17—Gainesville Independent School District trying to balance building needs with tightened budget conditions.

Much of the conversation at Monday afternoon's school board meeting revolved around financing necessary projects despite a lack of support from the state and local voters for building maintenance and upgrades.

"With only a limited pot of money, there's only so much we can do," said Superintendent DesMontes Stewart. "In the words of my old mentor, we've got to eat this elephant one bite at a time."

Some of these challenges to the finances includes unfunded mandates — requirements for schools from the state government that the state has yet to fund.

"Governor Abbott has imposed a series of actions to be taken by school districts in an effort to better secure their campuses," said Stewart.

The proposed security is a FiveStones Safety and Silent Panic Alert Technology System, which will provide emergency buttons on staff ID badges to allow covert alerting of administration and authorities.

GISD was able to acquire a grant for the system, but there are continuing costs that have not yet been allocated funds.

"We were able to procure a grant that is going to pay for this product ... this gets us started and gets infrastructure into place," said Stewart. "Hopefully, the state will come to the table, understanding that we're all in the same predicament ... and there are recurring costs. Hopefully the state will up our allotment for security so that we can cover this, but if not, we'll go out and search for other grants."

Other projects involve repair and renovation to existing school property.

"The track at the (Gainesville High School) stadium ... was designed for a 10-to-12 year life expectancy, and that track has far exceeded 12 years," said Stewart. "It actually is at the point where we cannot use the track, hence the reason why we did not host the Robin Byers track meet, which is one of our big track meets that we host each year."

The current track began use in 2008, the same year that the high school opened.

"The science labs over at the junior high school are in very, very, very bad shape," Stewart continued. "The tops of the desks you can peel off, there are electrical outlets that have exposed electrical wires, which were at the time hot, but they're no longer hot."

Director of maintenance and operations Joe Warren is working on getting the school quotes to have a better understanding of how much it will cost to renovate the four science labs.

There's also plans to replace an air unit that has gone out at the high school, removing old carpet at Chalmers Elementary and the Intermediate School and replacing with a laminate that is easier to clean, and updates to the auditorium, including trying to get things up to code.