District approves 25-year lease with Centro


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San Marcos CISDThe San Marcos CISD board of trustees approved a 25-year lease with Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos for the building at 211 Lee Street, San Marcos, on March 28. Brett Thorne/Community Impact Newspaper

The San Marcos CISD board of trustees unanimously approved March 28 a 25-year lease with Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos for the building at 211 Lee St., San Marcos.

During the meeting, community members spoke in favor of continuing the lease with Centro, which provides community programs and hosts events that are open to the public.

Centro President Ruben Becerra said the organization plans to request federal funding to address some of the building’s needed repairs. A lease of more than five years, which was originally posted on the agenda, was necessary for the organization to begin the process of trying to secure funding.

According to an estimate included in trustees’ agenda packet, repairs to the building would cost about $2 million.

“We would have to sell a lot of barbecue plates to replace the roof and all the things that are taking place,” Becerra said.

The district has the option to opt out of the lease, but must provide Centro 60 days notice.

Class size

The board also declined to take any action regarding last year’s direction to limit class sizes to 22 students in an effort to improve instruction.

Susan Seaton, Region 2D director of the Texas State Teachers Association, a teacher advocacy and assistance group, said she was relieved the board did not move to reverse last year’s decision.

“We’re very, very glad the board continues to support our teachers and our students by leaving the 22:1 hard cap,” Seaton said. “We know overcrowding is an issue, and we know they’re exploring other options, but we believe wholeheartedly that class size matters.”

Seaton said she expects the class size ratio of 22 students to each teacher will make “a significant impact” on student performance in the current school year.

The board adopted a deficit budget for the 2015-16 school year—meaning expenditures were projected to exceed revenues—in part to pay for additional teachers to meet the board’s class size mandate.

With budget workshops underway—the next is scheduled for 6 p.m., April 25 at the district’s central office at 500 S. LBJ Drive, San Marcos—discussions are turning to how to avoid approving another deficit budget while dealing with the growing student population.

“We just need to creatively look at how we are budgeting this money and where our priorities are,” Seaton said. “We agree that it’s time for academics to be a priority, and our students deserve our thinking outside the box.”

Block schedule

The board also determined it would leave the current block scheduling in place at the district’s two middle schools and high school but look for an alternative schedule to begin at the high school in the 2017-18 school year.

The current block schedule includes 90-minute class periods, but trustee John Crowley said he is in favor of a seven- or eight-period day that would include 45-minute classes.