Ysleta ISD Bond 2015: tough decision faces voters

The Ysleta Independent School District is proposing a new bond that would grant the district $430,585,998 to spend on additions, new constructions, upgrades and much more.

The $430.5 million will be divided with 30% ($127,288,375) going towards renovations, 36% ($155,789,750) to new construction, 15% ($63,743,202) to replacements, 13% ($55,116,975) to athletics, 2% ($10,269,500) to Fine Arts, 2% ($10,000,000) to technology, and 1.9% ($8,378,196) to safety and security.

Eastwood will be receiving $96,359,373 of the allotted $430.5M, with plans set to provide the campus with renovations to and/or replacement of 90% of the school. This would include technological upgrades, a renovated fine arts space, a new football and soccer field surface, the relocation of the softball field from Scotsdale Elementary back to the campus, new lighting for the baseball and softball field and tennis courts, gymnasium bleachers and backboard replacements, and a new sound system, as well as outfield fencing and scoreboards for the baseball and softball fields.

Students and teachers alike are mostly supportive of the bond, though some more fervently than others. Sara Behrens, an English teacher, remarked that Eastwood needs updates, and that hopefully the money in the bond would create a better educational space for the students.

"I am confident this money will go where it needs to go, to the benefit of students," Behrens said. "We can't continue in this building the way it is. It's not conducive to a productive learning environment."

Sophomore, Christopher Hulburt believes that the bond is necessary to support Eastwood's educational needs.

"I think the bond needs to pass, because unless we do something now, Eastwood will no longer be able to provide quality education." Hulburt said.

Other students are less convinced about passing the bond and believe that the present is just not the time. Senior Alexa Bautista said that when looking at everything being asked, the bond is just not a good idea, and there are other solutions being ignored.

"It's going to cost way too much money, and eventually I think it should happen, but not right now." Bautista said. "I think they should do small repairs here and there, but it's a little too drastic to rebuild the whole building from the ground up."

Principal Armenia Smith suggests that any examination of the facility shows that the building needs to be redone. Smith said that, with the state the school is in, repairs are no longer enough and that a total overhaul is needed to bring the school to the present.

"Look at the inadequacies of this building. Look at the struggles of this building." Smith said. "We do repairs all the time, but there's no way to catch up with what this school needs. The school needs new classrooms and technology to support today's generation. The new facility would be built to match the excellence of the academics."

Smith also said that it is time to start looking at what needs to be done to propel El Paso education into the future.

"We can't look at the past; what we need to do is have a plan for the future," she said.

One of the most commonly asked questions is how this construction will affect the students of Eastwood. Smith explained that the construction will be processed in an organized manner favorable to most students remaining on site to be taught.

"We'll handle the construction and students of Eastwood in two ways," Smith said. "One, 9th graders will be staying at Eastwood Middle to open up more room at the high school. Secondly, the new facility will be constructed in stages, with classrooms remaining open to sufficiently serve the different groups at Eastwood."

YISD superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre believes first and foremost, that it is important for the voters to understand that while the tax rate will go up, the annual tax bill will not; it will actually go down, for the average homeowner in the district.

"You'll never find a better situation to reinvest in schools," De La Torre said. "This doesn't increase taxes for the people 65 years of age and older. There is another item on the ballot that proposes an increase in the statewide tax exemption. The 12 cent increase in property taxes would be nullified. You can support $430 million in renovations and property taxes will still go down rather than up."

He also said that the money put towards the schools was divided by  necessity.

"Investment per school was based on need," De La Torre said. "People need to look at YISD as one.  It makes more sense that the older schools get more money."

He also remarked that measures were being taken to ensure the bond money would be used as effectively as possible.

"YISD has hired a program manager to oversee these projects to get quality, under budget construction," De La Torre said. "We're educators, not architects."

The superintendent also believes that passing the bond is about more than simply building new schools and upgrading current structures; it is about giving the employees and students of Ysleta a more appropriate educational setting.

"Learning in classrooms built in the 30's and 40's will lead us to fail in preparing the students." De La Torre said. "Reinventing the learning space gives students, staff, and faculty, a 21st century learning space that promotes all types of learning, and will allow students to be really creative in really creative spaces. It will give kids and faculty a space conducive to education."

De La Torre thinks that the bond will bring pride to the YISD community and highlight the accomplishments of the educators.

"The bond will make sure that YISD continues to be the best option."De La Torre said. "It will honor the teaching profession and give cause to rally around the district. When you allow a school like Eastwood to decay it sends the message that Eastwood's time has come and gone, but we plan to be around and be relevant for another 100 years."

Early voting will take place Oct. 19 - 30, with Nov. 3 being Election Day and the last day to cast your ballot. Below is a list of voting sites and times.

Date  Location Time
 Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 Bel Air High School
731 N. Yarbrough Dr. 79915
Room 400
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 Hanks High School
2001 Lee Trevino Dr. 79936
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015
Ysleta High School
8600 Alameda Ave. 79907
Wafer Gym
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Friday,October 23, 2015
Parkland High School
5932 Quail Ave. 79924
Events Center, 100 Hallway
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 Del Valle High School
950 Bordeaux Dr. 79907
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 Riverside High School
301 Midway Dr. 79915
Theater Lobby
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 YISD Central Office
9600 Sims Dr. 79925
Franklin/Guadalupe Room
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
 Friday, Oct. 30, 2015 Eastwood High School
2430 McRae Blvd. 79925
Theater Lobby
 8:00a.m. – 5:00 p.m.