This article was originally published in the Progress Times issue dated Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.
A Palmview High School student questioned the need for La Joya’s multi-million dollar sports complex during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
During the public comments of the meeting, Sophomore Raul Montoya said he attended a meeting by the “Advisory Pack” which said the district spent $21 million on their sports and learning complex, which houses a planetarium, an indoor pool, tennis courts, and a water park.
“What was the need for this water park? I firsthand saw a student drop out from La Joya ISD to go to Job Corps where they offer more opportunities to students who are bright and talented in the welding field,” Montoya said. “La Joya ISD could have invested $21 million on a technical school, but instead they invested it on a water park.”
Montoya also informed the school board of the conditions of his campus’ athletic department, which has a deteriorating track for students to practice on and several track students who can’t afford cleats. Though he is not an athlete, Montoya argues that money should’ve been invested in the district’s athletic programs.
“The facilities at our campuses are falling apart and students are being held back from joining a team and excelling in sports,” Montoya said. “We want La Joya ISD to use the money that was intended for students.
Though the school board can’t respond to people speaking during public comments, Trustee Claudia Ochoa personally approached Montoya during executive session, promising to discuss the matter further with him.
“I just think this is a big misunderstanding,” Ochoa told Montoya before heading back to executive session.
Earlier in the meeting, representatives with the Austin based Shepherd Government Affairs firm released a letter dated Oct. 18, 2018 from La Joya ISD Superintendent Alda T. Benavides that defended the “water park.”
The letter, which was addressed to “State Legislator” includes a cost breakdown of the entire project which totals up to $14,683,000. Most of that went toward the natatorium with only $2,000,000 of that going to the much discussed water slides and outdoor pool.”
“This project is one our community is proud of,” Benavides said in the letter. “The District has saved for years, spent frugally, and was able to pay for this project out of the district’s fund balance….Projects like the La Joya Sports and Learning Complex help a lot by providing opportunities for project-based lessons and state of the art facilities for our students no matter their economic situation.”