With more than one thousand elementary school students, afternoon dismissal at Herrington Elementary is always all hands on deck, says Principal Julie Nelson.
“If you think about getting 200 5-year-olds, 200 6-year-olds, et cetera, to every place they need to be safely in about 10-15 minutes, it is a challenge,” Nelson said.
If voters approve Round Rock Independent School District’s proposed Bond on Nov. 6, a new elementary school would be built in northeast Round Rock ISD to provide space for a growing student population there and relieve crowding at Herrington. Elementary #35 would provide space for about 900 students and is budgeted to cost $48 million, which includes furnishings and technology.
Herrington opened eight years ago with 600 students, and it now has 1,114. In the next five to 10 years, it’s projected that have 1,600 students. Round Rock ISD now serves 50,300 students and grew by more than 1,300 students from last year.
“Our school is not large enough to accommodate all those students,” Nelson said. “We currently have a grade level and several other sections and programs out in portables, and as we grow, we actually do not have room for more portables at this time.”
Herrington was designed to hold between 800 to 1,000 students and has grown beyond its designed capacity, according to Terry Worcester, Round Rock ISD’s chief operating officer.
“The growth in northeast Round Rock ISD will continue,” Worcester said. “The existing brick-and-mortar facilities simply cannot accommodate that large a number of students, and the site is not large enough to continue to add portables.”
Any additional portables would have to go on the school’s playground. Nelson said that’s not a good option for students.
“It’s very distracting to the students in the portable when kids are playing all around it,” she said. “You can’t contain that noise, and you wouldn’t want to contain the noise when the kids are on the playground. That would not be an ideal scenario.”
Claire Pinali, a reading interventionist at Herrington Elementary, says the teachers do a great job of managing a large number of students, but the numbers are apparent during specials.
“In our gym, at any given time during specials, we have potentially over 100 kiddos,” Pinali said. “When you have that many bodies in a gym, you are going to be limited in the things that you can do safely.”
Lunch is another time when 200 5-year-olds come together, Pinali explains. “That’s a lot of kiddos who are problem-solving at a 5- and 6-year-old level, and they need a lot of assistance. They need that help to open their lunch or problem solve with a friend next to them, and that can be a real challenge when you’re in a cafeteria and you have a certain amount of adults there for safety and to keep everyone on track.”
Elementary #35 will be in the Stony Point Learning Community, though a specific site for the school has not yet been chosen.
For cost efficiency, Elementary #35 will likely follow a similar educational model to Joe Lee Johnson Elementary, which is Round Rock ISD’s newest school and is 118,500 square feet
To reach its budgeted cost of $48 million, the District estimated construction costs at $250 per square foot, which are today’s prices. When design and engineering cost; furniture, fixtures and equipment expenses; and a contingency fund are added in, the total budget is $325 per square foot for a total cost of $38,512,500 today. That number is escalated for costs in 2019, 2020 and 2021, when actual construction would occur and when completed projected costs are budgeted to be close to $48 million.
Worcester anticipates that this school will be more costly to build than previous elementary schools because any potential site in the northeast area of the District will need a greater investment in infrastructure. Sites in that area likely will require infrastructure development for water, waste and possibly even streets. Joe Lee Johnson Elementary was completed under its $37 million budget in part because a site was found that did not require significant infrastructure spending.
Round Rock Independent School District is seeking a Bond of $508.4 million. The Bond is not expected to raise the District’s tax rate, which is at a 30-year low.
Additional Bond projects include additions at Brushy Creek and Caraway elementary schools; reconstruction of C.D. Fulkes Middle School; an addition to the cafeteria at Stony Point High School; master plan additions at McNeil and Westwood high schools; and safety and technology improvements Districtwide.