ABILENE, Texas - It's a big day for students and faculty of Abilene ISD.
Superintendent Dr. Heath Burns spoke with AISD employees Wednesday morning to officially break the news that an $87 million bond for district renovations and safety and security upgrades passed with 70 percent of the vote, and to answer questions about what comes next.
"I'm excited about where we are and I think we're off to a very good start," Burns said.
That start is expected in the next few weeks when the district will begin the process of identifying and selecting the contractors that will be used for various school projects. Burns said several contractors will be involved, considering the fact that everything is slated to be completed within 42 months. Staff is already reviewing qualifications sent in by architects and will make recommendations to the AISD school board at the Monday meeting.
Burns said Bowie Elementary is at the top of the priority list, followed closely by Bonham Elementary. Construction is expected to begin no later than summer of 2014, with security improvements likely to begin even sooner than that.
Burns said was pleased with voter turnout and the support behind the bond.
As for those who voted against the tax increase?
"My hope is this: that we unify behind our students and teachers. Frankly, they're worth it," Burns said.
He also said his main goal in holding 87 informational sessions to present the facts of the bond, and using satellite voting at Abilene school campuses, was simply to increase voter turnout.
"I had no way of knowing whether that turnout would be 'yes' votes or 'no' votes." Burns said. "It's not new. We've used satellite voting on campuses for years in AISD. Also, some of our regular polling places on Election Day are schools. It's not like someone's going to walk into an elementary school and decide to vote 'yes' because they saw a pack of crayons. I think we're sorely underestimating and almost insulting our voters by looking at the issue through that rationale."
10,973 people voted in the bond election. Of those, 4,494 voted early. Of those early voters, 1,516 voted at those mobile units.
Burns has had a part in passing five school bonds in three different districts in his career. He said that he has no plans to leave his position at Abilene ISD because of the results of this election.
"This is a place that I want to be and just because we passed a bond issue doesn't mean that I'm trying to look for another school district. In this case that couldn't be further from the truth," Burns said. "I want to see this through. I want to finish what we've started."