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Kilgore ISD details options to fund critical facility needs
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Kilgore ISD trustees held a budget workshop Thursday as part of an ongoing series of meetings and workshops focusing on critical district facility needs.

The meeting, one of several held so far this summer, provided trustees with additional information about the potential cost and tax impact of addressing serious issues with KISD campus buildings and facilities. No final decisions were made about district facility projects Thursday, as the informational meeting served to give trustees an overview of possible options to fund large-scale district improvement projects.

Superintendent Andy Baker advised trustees to use the information presented at the meeting to better understand the potential impacts such projects could have on the Kilgore community, in terms of tax impact.

“Part of the goal of tonight is to understand what any of this, in any form or fashion, might mean for this community. The second part of this is some good, strong discussion about what these projects might entail. You don’t have to make an ultimate decision tonight,” Baker said.

At last week’s meeting and Thursday evening, trustees reviewed and discussed three potential bond programs to pay for the cost of district upgrades. Working with Claycomb Architects, KISD presented the preliminary bond scenarios to show trustees how many individual projects they could fund with different bond amounts and the tax impact each could have.

The meetings are part of a long-term effort by the district to find out what faculty and staff most want to see changed and/or fixed in the buildings where they work throughout the year.

At a workshop last week, trustees discussed the top four most critical facility needs as voted on by KISD staff. At the top of list is a new high school building. The current Kilgore High School facility is almost 100 years old, having been built in 1933.

Also on the list were energy upgrades and a roof replacement at Chandler Elementary, renovation of R.E. St. John Stadium, and districtwide technology infrastructure upgrades.

“Your high school building is absolutely on the list. It’s got to be addressed, it’s absolutely one of your biggest priorities,” Baker said. Noting growth in the district’s student population and a large incoming freshman class, he added the district would likely have to resort to using portable buildings to accommodate all of its students in five years if it didn’t take quick action on the high school project.

Other trustees agreed that a new high school building was a top priority.

“One of the things that people look at, that companies look at when they want to locate businesses is what the schools look like. Right now, our schools aren’t attractive to industries. We’ve got to do something about that high school,” trustee Dereck Borders said.

Each proposed scenario would have a noticeable tax impact to the interest and sinking (I&S) tax rate used by KISD. The I&S rate is the tax rate levied by districts to pay for any bond debt that may have been issued to fund the construction of schools and facilities, according to the Texas Comptroller.

One scenario for a $90 million bond would lead to a 16.33 cent increase in the I&S tax rate, a $100 million bond package would need a 19.71 cent increase in the tax rate and the largest, a $110 million bond package, would require a 23.08 cent increase in the tax rate.

KISD aims to have the bond proposal on the ballot in November, and Kilgore residents will be able to vote “yes” or “no” on the bond package. If it fails, the district will have to regroup and try again with another bond election in May.

Part of the challenge of the project, Baker told trustees, will be deciding which projects to fund, as even the largest proposed bond package would not be sufficient to fund every facility project identified by the district.

“What do you start taking off?” Baker asked trustees as they considered which projects could be funded if the bond election passes.

For example, a bond package could be used to fund projects at KHS and Chandler, including constructing a new high school building with new facilities for a Career and Technical Education wing and a new auditorium — but each item comes with a price tag which takes up a portion of the total bond package. The task for trustees now is to settle on which bond package they would like to propose and have an idea of which projects will be funded and when and how they would be funded.

Baker told trustees he would need their decision by Tuesday if the district wants to have the bond proposal ready in time for a November election.

At 82, Kilgore woman shares dancing passion by teaching classes at Longview rec center
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At 82, Shirley Rae Sawyer has been dancing since the day she was born. Today, she shares her passion with the community by teaching a new beginner line-dancing class at Green Street Recreation Center in Longview.

“It’s a good outlet. I would encourage anybody, if they like to dance at all, to take line dancing,” Sawyer said. “It’s easy enough. You don’t get frustrated and you make it fun.”

Sawyer, of Kilgore, keeps things fun for her new class by teaching participants to do newer, popular line dances like the “Macarena” and the “Cupid Shuffle” in addition to traditional favorites. The class, which began in June, is offered at 10 a.m. Wednesdays at the rec center.

While this class is new at Green Street, Sawyer’s affiliation with the Longview recreation center is not.

Sawyer, who grew up in Marshall and who has danced her entire life, first began line dancing at the recreation center in the summer of 1992 when she was 54. At the time, members had to be 55 to join but younger participants could still take part in classes by paying $1 each visit. When Sawyer turned 55, she officially became a member of the recreation center.

Then-instructors Pat Maddox and Eldon Boswell taught the dance classes at the time using 45 records and cassette tapes. In 1993, a dance team formed from the center under the name the Green Street Swingers. Sawyer joined the group, which performed at nursing homes, churches, festivals, fairs and other events.

When Boswell retired in 1995, Sawyer began helping teach the classes and in 1996 she became an employee of the recreation center. While she was transferred to work at the Paula Martin Jones Recreation Center in 2000, Sawyer continued to teach dance classes and be involved at Green Street.

During her years leading the class, Sawyer would travel to other areas of Texas and bring back dances to share with the Longview group.

“We didn’t have YouTube back then,” she said. “I’d go to South Texas, to San Antonio and to Mission, and I’d bring dances back. That’s what I would do. I would just bring them back. I counted it up one time after I retired and we did 96 different dances.”

In addition to line dancing, Sawyer also previously clogged. She started in 1989 and clogged her many years, including being part of a local clogging group. Today, neuropathy in her feet prevents her from being able to clog, which she described as “heavy exercise.”

Today, line dancing continues to suit her. She also enjoys quilting and painting. She has an art and dance room that her husband built for her and she enjoys spending time there.

While she is retired from working with city, Sawyer is enjoying teaching the new beginner line dance class. The class typically has 12 to 14 participants, and there is room for it to grow. When it started in June, there were seven members, Sawyer said.

In the beginner class, Sawyer explained, she is able to repeat steps until the participants understand them.

“You teach the steps two or three times,” she said.

As participants learn the moves, they are able to put them together in a dance.

While line dancing is fun, it also has its health benefits as it encourages seniors to stay active through light exercise.

“If I wasn’t doing that, I would be sitting doing something and I like to move,” she said.

She said she would encourage others to consider joining Green Street Recreation Center for the many activities it offers to seniors. In addition to line dancing, Green Street Recreation Center also offers Bingo, exercise classes, game days and other educational activities.

Green Street is one of three recreation centers overseen by the city of Longview’s Parks and Recreation Department. However, Green Street Recreation Center isn’t just open to Longview residents. It’s available to anyone 35 and older in Longview and the greater East Texas community to join. Membership costs $15 per year.

Green Street Recreation Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 814 S. Green St. in Longview.

Health officials report nearly 200 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County
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New confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in East Texas continued marching upward on Thursday with the release of a twice-weekly report.

Gregg County’s numbers since Monday increased by 101 probable cases and 96 confirmed cases, according to the Northeast Texas Public Health District, while Smith County saw a rise of more than 400 new combined cases.

Gregg, Smith, Henderson, Rains, Wood, Van Zandt counties have seen a seven-day rolling rate of more than 35 new cases per day, new data shows.

The Northeast Texas Public Health District, known as NET Health, data showed Gregg County has had a total of 12,441 confirmed and probable cases since the start of the pandemic. The number includes 6,748 confirmed cases and 5,693 considered probable. Of the cases, 6,187 are confirmed recovered and 5,121 are probable recoveries.

On Thursday, there were 449 confirmed active cases in Gregg County and 480 active probable cases. The county has had 112 confirmed deaths and 92 probable fatalties from the virus.

In Smith County, there have been a total of 23,059 confirmed and probable cases. Of those, 13,649 are confirmed cases and 9,410 are probable cases.

There have been 12,408 confirmed recoveries and 8,609 probable recoveries. Confirmed active cases are at 1,030 in Smith County, while probable active cases are at 711, NET Health reported. Of the 301 deaths, 211 are confirmed to be COVID-19 related and 90 are probable deaths.

A total of 175 East Texas patients were receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Tyler hospitals as of Thursday.

Ninety-five Smith County Jail inmates had an active diagnosis of COVID-19 as of Thursday. One Smith County inmate has died due to COVID-19. The Gregg County Jail had no active cases in inmates, according to NET Health.

COVID-19 vaccination clinic set Monday at Kilgore College

Kilgore College is hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics for the community with the next one set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 9, in the carpeted gym of Parks Fitness Center, 701 Laird St., on the Kilgore campus.

Additional dates for the KC clinics are: Tuesday, Aug. 31 and Tuesday, Sept. 21.

The second dose will be available at least 21 days after the first dose.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the Northeast Texas Public Health District to provide services designed to foster the health and safety of the college and our community,” President Brenda Kays said.

Both the Pfizer (two doses) and Johnson & Johnson (one dose) will be available.

Anyone 18 or older can choose to receive either vaccine. Persons 12 to 17 years old will only be offered the Pfizer vaccine, and they must be accompanied by their parent or legal guardian at the vaccine clinics.

Face coverings are required to be worn inside the vaccination clinic.

Appointments are recommended; however, walk-ins are welcome.

Times can be scheduled by visiting www.NETHealthCOVID19.org using the specific portal, or by calling (903) 617-6404.

Those who have received another vaccination of any kind, including flu or Shingles, or who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, need to wait at least 14 days before receiving the first (or a second) COVID-19 vaccine.