Mission CISD employees have gotten good at making what they have work, district leaders emphasized while standing in a bus yard packed tightly with vehicles.
Typically, buses require 11 feet to park. Mission Consolidated Independent School District’s drivers make do with 8 feet, they said Saturday to a group of district administrators, board members and parents. The trip to the transportation and warehouse facilities was the last stop on a walkthrough of several buildings in the heart of school district as part of a needs assessment.
MCISD Superintendent Ricardo Lopez emphasized the trip was just aimed at taking an inventory of the facilities. District leaders aren’t necessarily gearing up for a bond issue, but their assessments may lead to that, he said.
The last bond issue was $59 million borrowed in 2008. The last of the projects under the bond, which include the third phase of Mission High School renovations, are still under construction.
“The beautiful thing about Mission is they do things in phases, so they don’t go for an all or bust mentality,” Lopez said. “And the district has invested $30-$40 million of its own money to avoid bonds.”
Saturday’s tour made stops at four Mission CISD facilities: the transportation building, Mission High School, Veterans Memorial High School and Mission Junior High School.
Space is an issue at both high schools, though a two-story academic building is under construction at Mission High.
Veterans Memorial’s campus was originally a freshmen campus and not intended to hold 1,800 high school students. Starting outside, Rick Rivera, executive director for maintenance, listed off the campus’ shortcomings. Three tennis courts aren’t enough. There isn’t space for the entire student body to come together, and the school’s track and practice fields need more bleachers.
“As you can see,” Lopez said, “this isn’t adequate for a high school facility. I mean, we have grade A facilities – we have a division 1 track; we have top of the line turf – but it can’t be to its maximum use if you can’t hold the people here.”
Moving inside, Lopez stopped at the Veterans Memorial cafeteria, which he said is very nice, but has a capacity of 400. There are 1,800 students cycled through three lunches, so many students spill outside into the courtyard, he said, and others don’t eat.
“This is a top priority,” Lopez said.
Rivera and Lopez then led the group to the school’s library and gym, which they said don’t stack up to the facilities available at Mission High School. Veterans Memorial also has no resources for fine arts. Art teachers have regular classrooms with no sinks and have to take their supplies outside with a bucket to rinse them off.
“We would walk you to our art facilities and our band facilities and our mariachi facilities, but we don’t have those,” Lopez said. “For whatever reason, the vision has never been there for the arts. It’s there now, but we don’t have the facilities here.”
Meanwhile, over at Mission High School, renovations are ongoing, but Principal Edilberto Flores pointed out issues that still haven’t been addressed. One of the school’s buildings, he said, doesn’t have student restrooms. The art rooms are too small and have no space for storage. An old locker room was converted into a dance studio too small to hold the program’s 45 girls, while a band room is being used for folklorico.
“Our programs are growing, and our facilities that we have don’t fit those needs,” Flores said.
When Rivera arrived at the district in 2006, the Mission Junior High campus was being gutted and renovated. Now, the only original portion of the campus still standing is the gym, but the school’s principal reported issues with the foundation on some of the portions of campus.
Lopez stood beside the back entry to the junior high school, which is lined with heavy metal fencing. The fencing isn’t inviting, he said, but it’s for student safety and one way to improve the area is to enclose it.
Over at the transportation property, members of the group were dismayed at the side of a large tarp suspended over part of the shelving in the warehouse. It’s there to prevent leaks and protect storage from the elements. One MCISD parent said the tarp was there when she toured the facilities 10 years ago.
District officials said years ago the beams in the warehouse were tested to see if new roofing panels could be screwed into place, but the beams were deemed too old and rotted. Some items in storage were moved over to an empty wing at Pearson Elementary.
Lopez said the district would continue examining what needs to be done on its campuses. He has his own priorities, such infrastructure projects like technology that people can’t see.
“We do have priorities that we’ll bring forward. It’s a constant collaboration,” Lopez said. “The community has been a very giving community. If we don’t bring people in to evaluate our buildings to see what our kids go through, it’s hard to evaluate what’s a need and a want.”