School, city differ on ‘historic’ needs
Fredericksburg Independent School District’s board of trustees said they don’t want an adversarial relationship regarding the city’s proposed expansion of its historic district. But they also don’t want new ordinances in place yet as they eye a potential future rebuilding of the middle school campus.
On Monday, trustees passed a resolution opposing the expansion in hopes of the city giving it more time to consider what factors it must consider in building a new campus.
Trustee Mark Cornett, who owns a construction company, outlined the district’s concerns.
“The challenge I have as a school board member is we’re giving an appointed board the authority to tell taxing entities and voting entities how they’re going to handle their improvements,” Cornett said. “That is really hard to balance with the constraints we have to educate our kids. We have to consider school safety and the way you design schools now does not look at all like the middle school does.”
“We are just starting this process to look at the middle school and what we are going to do,” he said. “Saying we have to go to the board for this and that puts a pretty big burden on the school district. I would say let us go through our design process, put it to a bond vote, and the community would decide.”
“We are very respectful of the college and high school building,” he said. “But any significant structural repair to bring it into compliance would mean a tremendous amount of money.”
“I know you are in the process of doing some campus planning. We think now is the time to have that conversation,” Anna Hudson, city historic preservation officer, told the board. “I would feel pretty comfortable saying that most of the buildings could go except for the old college and high school buildings.
“But if we were to omit the campus, it would create a donut hole (in the expanded district),” Hudson said. “As stewards, I think it is incumbent to protect those for future generations. There are some stucco issues on the old college building, but those limestone walls are incredibly thick and sound. The historic review board doesn’t review interior work and keep in mind they can grant some exceptions.”
Dr. Lance Love, trustee, asked if the campus could be excluded from the district.
“Can it be done? Sure, it can be done, but is it a best practice? No. We have zoning and building codes that you as a taxing entity already have to follow,” Hudson said.
Sharon Joseph, historic review board chairperson, said the former college building already has a historic designation.
“I think you will find the board and Anna easier to work with than you are imagining,” Joseph said. “It’s not a back-and-forth or ‘do this, do that’ thing.”
Joseph asked the district not to do a “blanket resolution” opposing the historic district expansion.
FISD board president Brian Lehne said the use of taxpayer dollars is a paramount consideration that may come into conflict when the district’s plans go against the historic district’s visibility requirements.
“The existing historic buildings have issues relating to power, air conditioning, insulation, building code, safety, tightness and general building conditions,” Lehne said. “We just need to ensure we can control our costs. We’re working on a shoestring budget.”
Hudson asked the board to consider the Bonham Academy in San Antonio’s King William Historic District. “They have done major additions, they have done new construction, and they’ve kept the original 1920s building,” she said.
Hudson said demolition also comes with costs.
Cornett said current needs put a new campus at 20 acres, where the FMS footprint is about 15. Lehne added that the sports fields constrain that space even more.
Trustee Kelly DiCuffa said some kids are embarrassed about the out-of-date campus and the historic buildings are like “museums,” but not where we can educate kids. She said two buildings could be built for the price of renovating a historic building.
The city council will vote on the issue at its June 17 meeting.
The board heard a presentation from Helen Usener and Laverne Boos with the Parent Teacher Association’s cookbook committee. The group recently donated $47,415 to the district, with which a new auditorium sound system and many other projects were purchased.
The committee has been in existence since 1916 and, over its lifetime, has donated nearly $1 million to the district.
The board also heard from the representatives from a mentoring group for middle school girls. (See page D2 for more information.) Trustees expressed appreciation for that group’s work since 2015.
The board also heard a summer construction update from Bobby Kincaid, of Pfluger Construction, and heard a bond report from Duane Westerman, senior managing director with Samco Capital Markets in San Antonio. Westerman reviewed money-saving bond maneuvers.
Westerman said the district tried to work with its bond holdings to stabilize the 10.6-cent interest and sinking fund as part of its tax base, while managing future bond amounts.
Trustees were to have met at noon today to go over the 2019-2020 school year budget.
The board also approved pursuing contracts for eight new doors and surveillance cameras at entrances and exits, high-traffic and semi-public areas all around the district. The board heard a report from Dr. Michelle Williams, district technology director.
Hires after executive session included:
Primary school – Nancy Estrada, bilingual kindergarten; Jennifer Gearhart, Head Start and ESL.
Stonewall Elementary – Meagan Cates, kindergarten.
Fredericksburg Elementary – Danni Vinyard, counselor; Jennifer Schwope, second grade.
Middle school – Bandit Schonberg, science instructor.
High school – April Poissant, Advanced Placement English.