One proposal costs $11.7 million, the other $10.7 million

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The San Diego Independent School District moved a step closer toward the construction of a new elementary school Monday, when the district's board of directors examined two proposals from an architect firm.

The firm Kell Munoz presented the two plans to the board Monday, and those plans included a completely new construction and a renovation of the old Bernarda Jaime Junior High School building.

The first plan presented to the board Monday involved a complete demolition of the existing abandoned junior high school building, with a new facility to be constructed on the site. The centerpiece of that facility would be a courtyard with an outdoor amphitheater, as well as a tree-lined "history walk" leading up to the school.

Under the second plan, the existing structure would be renovated, with a "plaza social" and a covered walkway connecting two separate buildings.

According to preliminary information presented by Henry Munoz III Monday, the first proposal would provide approximately 78,000 square feet at a cost of $11,710,275.

The second proposal would produce a school with 88,000 square feet, at a cost of $10,717,786.

Board members told Munoz they were particularly interested in the plan for a newly constructed facility, but asked for some changes to be made to both plans. Those plans are scheduled to be reconsidered during the board's next meeting.

In another issue Monday, the board also addressed concerns from several parents about the manner in which more than $100,000 of high school allotment funding was spent last year. The high school received $102,301 in allotment funding from the state during the 2006-2007 school year, and some parents questioned why that money was not made available to students to pay for dual-credit courses at Coastal Bend College.

Elena Nunez Sanchez addressed the board and said that allotment money from this year should be used to reimburse students who attended CBC classes last year.

"My question is if the money is there, why not reimburse last year's students," Sanchez said. "All in all, our elected school board members and our superintendent, your utmost duty is to our children in our district."

Superintendent Luis Pizzini explained that although the allotment can be used to finance dual-credit courses for students, the state allows the money to be spent in a number of other ways. Pizzini said he allocated the money last year to fund TAKS-related tutoring and material for the junior high school and the high school, in an effort to increase TAKS scores in the district.

Pizzini also said some money had been allocated for dual-credit courses for the spring semester. Following a lengthy discussion, the board announced its support of Pizzini's decision, but said additional money will be set aside in next-year's budget for dual-credit courses.

Board President Javier Solis again brought an item to the board requesting a change in local policy that would prevent students who have completed all required coursework but who have not passed the TAKS test from participating in commencement activities. Currently, students who complete all coursework requirements for graduation but who do not pass their TAKS test are allowed to participate in commencement activities, although state law does not allow them to receive a high school diploma until they have passed TAKS.

The board rejected the change earlier this year in a 3-4 vote, and rejected it again Monday in a 3-4 vote. Board members Solis, Rafael Saenz and Roy Guerrero were the only members to vote in favor of the change.

The board also approved an application for a Texas Educator Excellence Grant for Bernarda Jaime Junior High and San Diego High School. The state-funded grant will provide financial incentives for teachers and administrators who meet certain criteria for increased student scores in testing.

In other business, the board nominated Javier Solis to serve as the district's representative on the Duval County Appraisal District Board of Directors, and nominated Betty Lou Garcia to serve as the district's representative on the Jim Wells County Appraisal District Board of Directors.

Those nominations must be approved during a vote by all taxing entities.

Following a 25-minute discussion on the subject Monday, the board voted to re-affirm the district's colors as "royal blue" and "old gold." Board member Librada Vela introduced the item, explaining that in recent years the district has moved away from the original school colors in favor of a navy blue and gold color scheme.

Vela's motion to the board was to re-introduce the original colors gradually over the next few years, wherever feasible.

The board tabled an agenda item that had called for a relaxation in the school's dress code policy for after-school activities, until a clear policy can be outlined.