LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Lufkin ISD is hoping a $75-million bond proposal will get the green light from voters. Not only would it bring a new middle school, but new athletic facilities on the high school campus.
The bond would give 80 percent of the funding to the middle school with 13 percent going to the new multi-purpose facility at the high school and 7 percent to new baseball and softball facilities.
"The multi-purpose facility would be for more than just sports," said Athletic Director Todd Quick. "We can have school assemblies and pep rallies in there. We can have a whole lot of other things besides athletics in it. We don't have a pace on campus for everyone to get together. This would give it to us."
Moving the facilities on campus would eliminate baseball, both boys and girls basketball, volleyball and softball from having to travel off campus. The only remaining off-site sports would by swimming and golf.
"It is the scariest part of my day," said basketball coach JT McManus. "When you are standing in the gym and getting ready to go to practice or an off-season practice, and you find out one of them has been in an accident, there is not a worse feeling in the world. Luckily, in my time here, I have only had two players get into accidents but they were minor with no injuries."
Quick is always concerned for the nearly 200 students that go off campus. One of those is his own son.
"It's scary," Quick said. "As a parent, I have one that has to do it every day and this is the third year."
Softball coach Shelby Elkins has a young team which makes travel to Morris Frank park a problem.
"We have 24 girls in our program," Elkins said. " We have six seniors and only three have cars. I have to get permission slips from parents for the kids to pack into the cars and get out here 10 minutes away from campus. It is something that you don't want to talk about, but it crosses everyone's mind. Having teenager pile into one care and travel out here."
With the plan to move the facilities on campus, the need for so many to drive eliminates what Quick calls an unnecessary risk.
"It is a lot different if we would just be able to have them leave class and walk across the campus to the fields," Quick said.
A passage of the bond would also solve the issue of the high school using Panther Gym. For 34 years, the gym has been an exciting place to watch basketball but the gym is considered outdated by today's standards.
"We are about as gym poor a district at the 5A, 6A level in the state of Texas," McManus said. "The middle school is extremely important. Anyone who has been through that facility can tell you it is much needed and necessary, but to act like we don't need a new gym is crazy."
Since the high school moved to the current location, and the old high school is now the middle school, both schools share Panther Gym. Many middle school sports and extra circular activities get limited time in the only competition gym in the district.
"If you look at Longview ISD, I think all of the middle schools have two gyms," McManus said. "Their high school is not using those."
One of the safety concerns with the gym is that it shares the air conditioning with the middle school auditorium. Only one can be cooled off at a time.
"It is incredibly hot. It becomes a safety issue," McManus said. "We want to work our kids hard, but the last thing we want is our kids to go down because of heat-related issues."
The baseball and softball teams play out at the city-run Morris Frank Park.
"We are happy for the city letting us have a spot to own a field but it is not up to par for how we play" Elkins said. "A lot of people have to stand or have law chairs. We don't have a press box that sits above or stadium seating. If you didn't know, just by looking at the field it is a good field, but there are so many small issues with it."
Being on city property also brings up more issues.
"When we hosted playoff games, we could not charge a gate fee to raise money," Elkins said. "We can't do it because there are other city fields inside the gates, and they have games and tournaments going on at the same time."
Coach John Cobb said the baseball field for his boys is in good shape thanks to years of financial support from the booster club. For him, getting a new field on campus would help with study time.
"We are always going to have to travel to play ball in Lufkin," Cobb said. "It doesn't matter what district it is. Because of our far district games, we have a lot of school time to make up. We have to do it after school each day.
"It takes 30-32 minutes to get them over here and get them dressed for practice every day," Cobb said. "They go back after school at 3:45 to make up work. That cuts a whole lot of our practice time out. If we were on campus, you are talking about it being just a fraction of that time."
Quick said the bond issue for athletics comes down to first helping the middle school and getting new facilities for the future generations.
"We have good facilities," Quick said. "You can be proud of what you have even though there could be improvements. You always want good stuff for the kids. Whether it be the kids in your home or the kids in the building, you want something better for them, and it is our responsibility to live by that."
Quick added that right now, there is no firm plan for where the facilities would be put on campus. Quick said if the bond were to pass they would work with architects and developers for the best options.
Early voting for the LISD bond election starts April 23. The election is on May 5.
More information on the bond can be found here.