By Kyle Peveto, Opinion Editor
Abilene residents can vote May 15 on three school bond propositions-one of which could significantly affect the future of Abilene high schools.
Proposition 3’s outcome will determine whether the Abilene Independent School District will combine Abilene and Cooper high schools into one.
The proposition will ask citizens to pay $53 million in the future for building a new school to house the combined student body.
“We want the biggest turnout ever” for the bond election, said Karen Stover, AISD information officer.
AISD schools have 3,000 fewer students now than in 1995, and a demographer predicted by 2005 AISD will lose 600 more high school students. Fewer students means less state funding, which pays schools $5,000 a student per year.
Officials must find a way to cut $3 million from the high school budget, and officials think combining the schools to form one large 10th -12th grade high school while placing 8th and 9th graders together at one of the current high schools would allow the board to cut the budget enough.
Stover said the district’s philosophy is to stay at the class 5A level: “There’s nothing wrong with being a 4A, but … we want to continue to offer what we offer.”
While families continue to move east toward the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Abilene high schools will either become two 4A schools or one 5A, Stover said.
The $53 million bond in Proposition 3 would pay for all but $10 million budgeted for the new school.
Propositions 1 and 2, if approved, would pay for renovations to Abilene schools, many of which are nearly 50 years old, and to renovate Shotwell Stadium, where the ACU football team also plays its home games. A venue tax passed earlier this year paid for some renovations to the stadium, but more money is needed to pave more of the parking lot and update concession and restroom areas.