The Round Rock ISD board approved Aug. 7 spending $25 million to construct the district's first alternative high school, Success High School, slated to open in summer 2014.
Martha Salazar-Zamora, deputy superintendent of instruction and administration, said alternative schools are a need for districts of any size to continue serving every student.
“They learn better in a smaller environment and are more apt to graduate,” she said. “There are sometimes misconceptions of an alternative high school. This is not a disciplinary school.”
The board approved purchasing 22 acres of land on the north side of Gattis School Road near I-35 and just south of Voight Elementary School. Alan Albers, executive director of operations and maintenance, said the money to pay for the land came out of the 2008 bond election.
Currently, Success High School operates out of portables at Stony Point High School for Success East and Westwood High School for Success West. Building the site in the middle of the district will allow the district to combine the programs and resources.
The 75,000-square-foot campus will have capacity for 336 students with room for an additional 100 more with the extended day, and more than 200 parking spots.
The money for constructing the school will come out of the district's remaining fund balance. Ramiro Flores, deputy superintendent of administration, said the district has about $42 million in unassigned dollars in that fund balance and that the district can use that money to build the school.
During the May 17 board meeting, board members approved spending $46.4 million on building two wings at Round Rock High School and replacing the roof on Grisham Middle School. The district used $12 million from its fund balance for that construction. Flores said the $42 million fund balance is what remains after the $12 million was approved.
Trustee Terri Romere, who was the only board member to vote against spending $25 million on the school, said that although she does support the Success program and understands its value, she does not feel comfortable with spending the $25 million.
“I am not questioning the ability, just the due diligence,” she said. “I just want to make sure the plan is in place.”
But other trustees said they do not want to delay voting on approving the construction as has been done in the past and only causes costs to increase.
“The $25 million is not something that is catching us by surprise tonight,” trustee Glen Colby said. “We've seen the magnitude of our fund balance.”
Trustee Brian Sellers added that students who choose to attend Success High School deserve the same treatment as their peers.
“These students deserve a permanent home and a school to call their own. I firmly believe in the program itself,” he said.
Alternative high school
Colby said the Success program offers a more tailored environment for students who do not do well in a traditional setting. The school gives students more flexibility with their schedules and will offer classes between 6 a.m.–9 p.m.
Enrollment for the 2011–12 school year was 212 students compared to the district's 44,331 students. Enrollment at Success is anticipated to increase to 374 students by the 2018–19 school year.
Salazar-Zamora said that when building an alternative school, there are several factors to consider, such as building the campus away from other schools so there are not any distractions to students and having extended hours and a child care center.
She said the school will offer core classes in English/language arts, math, science and social studies, but all will have courses in business and graphic design. The new campus will have a director, assistant principal, registrar, nurse center and student crisis management center.