Construction crews are busy laying the groundwork for a new Cleveland ISD Administration Building on SH 321 across from Cleveland High School and Cleveland Middle School. The building is the last project in a $198 million bond passed by Cleveland ISD voters in November 2019, not part of the $115 million “zero tax rate increase bond” referendum that voters will decide on Nov. 8, 2022.
“This project was on the back burner until other projects in the 2019 bond were finished. That bond also funded new campuses, the new softball/baseball complex and improvements to the football stadium. We made sure all of those student-focused projects were finished first before starting on the new administration building,” said Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless.
The new $20 million administration building will be a 51,000 square foot space with more than 7,000 square feet set aside for three training rooms for staff. The building will house the District’s human resource (HR) department, business office, curriculum and special programs staff, and administration.
“The school district is always training employees, both new and old. Right now we are having to conduct training in the cafeteria and other spaces. The new training rooms will provide ample space,” McCanless said.
Once the new administration building is complete, set for some time in December 2023, weather permitting, the old administration building at 316 E. Dallas St. will be repurposed.
“The District is considering three options for that building including using the space for Southside Elementary classrooms. A second option is using it for the District’s special education department and a third option is to move our technology department there. The one most favored by the District is the additional space for Southside Elementary,” McCanless said.
McCanless said he has heard from some local residents who are confused about the project, particularly since the $115 million bond will not be decided by voters until Nov. 8.
“There are a lot of people out there believing this is coming out of the current bond proposal. I just want to explain that nothing is being done with the proposed bond because it hasn’t been approved yet. Those five projects in the $198 million bond that was passed in November 2019 were set and determined by voters in that election. That’s all that money can be used for,” he said. “It’s the same thing for the $115 million bond that is being proposed. It can only fund the projects that are specifically mentioned in the bond.”
Here’s a further breakdown of how the $115 million bond will be used, if approved by voters on Nov. 8:
- The new middle school, estimated to cost around $87 million, will be built next to the new Northside Elementary Campus on FM 2025 on land already owned by the school district. This campus will serve up to 1,600 students in grades 6 through 8, and will be designed similar to Santa Fe Middle School with athletic amenities of track and football fields, support facilities, restrooms, concessions and bleachers to seat 900 people.
- The current Cleveland Middle School, located on Houston Street next to Cleveland High School, will then be repurposed as a ninth and tenth-grade campus. The $1.527 million that will be used from the bond money will fund a required roof replacement at identified problem areas, replace three existing direct exchange units, identify and renovate space for general building storage, restripe the existing parking lot with new paint and provide for miscellaneous sidewalks that will be needed for students to access the next portion of the bond projects – a new Career and Technical Education Center.
- The new CTE building, which comes at an estimated cost of $21.126 million, will be constructed on the old baseball and softball fields that are located between the current high school and middle school campuses. Cleveland ISD currently has 30 different programs in 13 career clusters for students. These include Agriculture, Food and National Resources; Architecture and Construction; Arts, A/V Technology and Communications; Business, Marketing and Finance; Education and Training; Health Science (nursing); Hospitality and Tourism; Human Services; Information Technology; Law and Public Service; Manufacturing; STEM; and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics.
- Improvements to Southside Elementary, estimated to cost $4.244 million, will address mechanical, electrical and plumbing needs with the main campus and portable buildings. LED lighting will be upgraded and installed campus wide. Flooring and ceiling tile replacement is included, as is repairs to the roofing. The campus will be repainted throughout the entirety of the facility. Multiple HVAC units and components will be replaced as well as plumbing fixtures in the pre-kindergarten classrooms. Aluminum canopies that connect the buildings and protect the students and staff during inclement weather will be added. This campus was built in 2002 and has not had any meaningful improvements for two decades.
- Douglass Learning Academy, which helps non-traditional high school students complete their education, will receive $542,829 in funding that will be used for mechanical repairs, lighting upgrades and an intrusion prevention system.
Cleveland ISD’s property tax rate was lowered by its Board of Trustees from $1.2470 in 2021 to $1.2118 in 2022. Ad valorem taxes are collected per $100 of property value, so a home valued at $100,000 in 2021 was taxed at $1,247 annually and a home valued at $100,000 in 2022 was taxed at $1,211. However, overall home valuations in Liberty County increased in 2022, an action prescribed by the Texas Comptroller’s Office and carried out through the Central Appraisal District. This means that an actual tax bill may remain the same or increase depending on the property valuation.
Cleveland ISD spends $6,678 to educate one student per year, half the statewide average. Compared to the statewide average of $13,346 per student (based on the U.S. Census’ 2020 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data), Cleveland ISD is still providing a bargain to residents within the district.