The current Kilgore High School is a hodgepodge building that’s been renovated and added onto many times since it was erected in 1932.
In addition to aging infrastructure, since some parts of the school are 90 years old, Kilgore ISD Superintendent Andy Baker says one of the biggest challenges is just inadequate learning space.
“This building right here next to us, that’s your original elementary school,” he said. “It was built in 1932 to house 1932 itty-bitties, and here we are in 2021 educating high school kids in the same size classroom. So we’re trying to educate through modern specs in a building that was built for elementary specs 90 years ago. It’s just a challenge.”
Kilgore residents got a firsthand look at the good, the bad and the ugly Saturday as Baker led a tour of Kilgore High School and discussed the proposed $113 million bond that will be on the ballot this November.
That bond will include two separate propositions: Prop A, which totals $109 million and includes money for the construction of a new high school and renovations at Chandler Elementary, and Prop B, which totals $4 million and covers ADA improvements at R.E. St. John Stadium.
Baker’s presentation Saturday was to “hopefully help people understand why we’re asking for this now, where we sit right now today and that’ll help you guys make decisions for the future,” he said.
Anyone lives in Kilgore ISD and is registered to vote will be able to vote in the bond election. Baker said those with questions about the bond can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will answer them.
If the bond doesn’t pass, Baker said the district would look at why voters struck down the measure and what changes would need to be made.
“All the bond election at this point is put out to the community,” he said. “The community at this point gets to vote yes, they get to vote no.”
Kilgore High School
Baker identified several major challenges with the current high school building, including physical space; security issues; aging infrastructure; and a moisture problem.
The moisture problem in particular was highlighted Saturday, as Baker showed issues with crumbling plaster in the original 1932 buildings because water was seeping in from the exterior wall. The district patches as those issues appear, Baker said, but that doesn’t address the root of the problem.
The building’s many add-ons also mean security is a mess, Baker said. They have 87 exterior doors at the high school and 1,200 kids going in and out of them during the day to reach classes and extracurriculars that are outside of the main building.
“So trying to keep all of these doors secure is not just a challenge, guys, at times it’s down right impossible,” Baker said.
The proposed bond is estimating a new high school will cost around $93 million, which is based off of the new high school that Caddo Mills ISD is currently building in the DFW area. Baker said Caddo Mills has a similar size and demographic profile to Kilgore — though he noted construction costs may be higher or lower when Kilgore ISD actually puts shovel to dirt, should the bond pass.
The new high school building’s footprint will be on the same site, just where the soccer fields, tennis courts and parking is located now. Baker said they’d build the academic wings first, then demolish parts of the old building that they determine they don’t need.
Preliminary concepts for any new high school building would take into account the arches and red roofs from the current building. Baker said they might have to make the new building three stories to make it fit on the site.
“Now with that said, a lot of this we’re trying to keep which would take this price down,” Baker said, noting the district hoped to keep the competition gym, cafeteria, ag building, library, science building (though it might not stay the science building), CRC building and football facilities.
The district’s facilities committee, which looked at district needs to determine what a potential bond should cover, identified Chandler Elementary’s critical needs as HVAC system replacement, roof replacement, window replacements and a new gymnasium.
Baker said the school’s educational space has been renovated through the years and is still educationally-appropriate in classroom and educational space aside from the gym.
The current gym, he said, is just not big enough.
“Every single one of those kids runs through that gym in P.E., bus holding locations, morning as they’re coming in. It’s just not big enough,” Baker said. “We run more kids through that gymnasium than what that gym has ever been designed to do. There’s no restroom facility in that gym and there’s no seating in that gym, other than the floor itself.”
R.E. St. John Stadium
The stadium is owned by both Kilgore ISD and Kilgore College, and Baker addressed the question of whether proposed ADA improvement costs in the bond election would be shared during Saturday’s discussion. The short answer is no.
Baker gave an example of the stadium’s lights, which were upgraded about four years ago, and said those same conversations were happening now. In that example, Kilgore ISD wanted upgraded LED lights. Kilgore College did not.
“Stop and think of why: It’s not because they want to be ornery or we want to be ornery,” Baker said. “We play our home varsity games on Friday nights at 7:30 in pitch black dark. We need good LED lights. When do they play their games? Saturday afternoon. They don’t need lights. So they don’t have the need, so the agreement that came about after this discussion was ‘We’re going to put in X amount and whatever else we’ve got, Kilgore ISD paid the change difference.’”
Baker said in discussing the need for restrooms, bleachers and other upgrades, the college had no desire to move forward on it.
“So we’re left on our own. So as long as our kids continue to use the stadium, again in talking to your school board and I think we all agree: It’s ours kids too, so we put our money towards what our kids are going to play,” Baker said. “It’s not a good answer because, yes, they get to use it, but I can’t force them to do what they don’t want to do. So we either sit back like we have been with the stadium and just continue to what end or we take steps to try to fix it for our kids.”