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Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Windsor Park Elementary School parent Ondrea Tarske is looking for donors willing to pitch in for a $2.2 million gym for the new gifted and talented magnet school.
Tarske shared her plans with trustees during Monday's board meeting in an effort to get them to sanction the campaign. No vote was taken during the discussion item, but some trustees said they support the move because the district has no money to pay for a gym.
District 4 trustee and vice president Catherine Susser said the gym seems to be more of a "want" than a "need," and dwindling enrollment makes dipping into the district's about $75 million fund balance less of an option.
"I happen to view it as a want. It's really just a matter of perspective," Susser said.
"The only way to pay for a gym would be to take it out of an already low fund balance."
Susser instead suggested the board discuss a long-term facilities plan to determine if facility spending priorities would allow for gyms to be built for all new schools - not just a select few.
Why didn't Windsor Park get a gym?
Calk-Wilson and Los Encinos were reconstructed as part of a $100 million bond approved by voters in 2014. Windsor Park also is getting new digs because of the bond. The school is still in the works and is slated to reopen in fall 2019.
In 2016, trustees approved $1.7 million in bond funds be allotted to build gymnasiums at Calk-Wilson and Los Encinos. The gyms are designed for elementary-aged children.
Construction costs were under budget at the time, according to reports.
Los Encinos got a gym because the consensus was the children deserved a new place for indoor activities. The school was built in 1963 and was designed with classroom doors that open to an outdoor covered walkway, making weather an issue.
Calk-Wilson also got a gym because one had been donated to Wilson, making it the only elementary school back then with a gym.
No funding was allotted for a gym at Windsor Park then and there is no money for it now, officials have said.
Two main reasons were highlighted by Bell on Monday as to why the school didn't get a gym back then.
She said Windsor Park was a more expensive project for several reasons, including the board going against initial plans to rebuild it at a different site after pushback, and trustees approving the initial design prototype - chosen for all three elementary schools - be altered to build a two-story campus for Windsor Park students and staff.
Windsor Park site change
A heated debate arose in 2015 on where to rebuild the campus. Part of the debate was on which location would be most fair since the magnet school serves students from across Corpus Christi ISD, according to Caller-Times archives.
Because the school was ultimately kept at the current site, construction timelines were altered, Bell said. The timeline for Windsor Park was pushed back about two years to allow time for an empty building - the empty Calk building - to become available for students and staff to occupy while their school is demolished and rebuilt.
That same year, the board approved a two-story design for Windsor Park to allow for a larger bus loop on Sharon Drive.
The single-story design with one drop-off location could have caused traffic congestion on Sheridan Drive, possibly forcing students to walk through the busy parking lot to get to the playground, Principal Kimberly Bissell said in 2015.
"If we had gone with the original plan, to start building at the same time as other two, possibly could have realized savings for the gym," Bell said. "But because we had to wait for two years and also because we're stacking, we changed the prototype, it made it more expensive."
Bell also said construction costs for Windsor Park have already exceeded the initial price tag by about $2 million.
"Windsor Park is $2 million over budget right now," Bell said. "And you have another $2.2 (million) for a gym - the financial implication is there, which is why we are where we are."
Bell and District 2 trustee and board president Tony Elizondo echoed a similar sentiment as Susser on whether Windsor Park "needs" a gym.
Elizondo said during the discussion he helped Tarske craft a letter to be issued to donors to solicit funds to build the facility.
Tarske said the $2.2 million construction estimate was provided by Fulton Construction, the company overseeing the bond projects.
A letter to parents will go out Monday to provide an update on the effort, which has been in the works for several months.
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