Comal ISD weighing two sites for new high school
Comal Independent School District trustees are considering land on FM 3009 for a new high school despite having prominently billed another location for the campus in advance of the successful $263.5 million bond election in May to pay for it.
Trustees deny pulling a bait-and-switch on voters, as critics complain, noting the prospect of constructing the school somewhere other than on Hubertus Road property bought in 2007 was mentioned on the district’s web site and at public meetings before voting began.
“We said, ‘We currently own land on Hubertus Road, but we’re also looking on FM 3009,’” said School Board President Cody Mueller, noting a final decision has yet to be made on the location of the 1,500-student campus known right now as HS4.
He said the board, which previously discussed buying the land on FM 3009 only in executive session, has set a July 27 workshop where the topics on the agenda for the public discussion will include choosing a site for HS4.
Former trustee Bill Swint said the district fell far short of its obligation to alert voters that the Hubertus Road location identified in its bond brochures might not end up being used for HS4, one of two new high school funded in the bond package.
“The materials put out by the district were simply misleading,” he said Thursday. “If you don’t know where you’re going to build the school, that’s what you should tell the voters.”
Some who oppose a high school on the FM 3009 site suspect the district didn’t advertise possibly moving the school there because voters were more likely to support the bond plan if they thought it would go on Hubertus Road.
Swint wouldn’t go that far, saying, “I don’t know if (school officials) were trying to mislead the voters or not.”
An April 19 post on the district’s Facebook page features part of its bond brochure. “Land for High Schools is Secured: The land for both HS4 and HS5 was purchased by the district in 2007 and 2010 in the Garden Ridge and Kinder Ranch subdivision,” it said.
The district entered a contingency contract — which is still pending — before the election to buy the parcel at 23255 FM 3009, which was advertised for sale at $7.16 million.
“It is a beautiful piece of property and the price was right,” Trustee Stephen Smith said, declining to cite the purchase price or say when the contract option expires.
School District Spokesman Steve Stanford said officials faced a timing dilemma in that they couldn’t say before the election that Hubertus Road wasn’t the site of HS 4 because the land purchase on FM 3009 wasn’t final.
Concerns about deviating from announced plans for the site of HS4 led the district to post new information on its web site before the election under a FAQ (frequently asked questions) about the bond package.
The web site entry noted the district owns land on Hubertus Road, “however, the district is currently finalizing negotiations for the purchase of approximately 221 acres on the west side of FM 3009 between Schoenthal Road and Bat Cave Road. If negotiations are successful, this may be the location for the new high school.”
Swint joined Gerry Franklin, who lives near the FM 3009 land and opposes putting a school there, in calling the district’s disclosures inadequate.
“They had an obligation to send out a direct notice to every taxpayer in the district before the election that they were considering this change,” said Franklin, who contends adding a high school on FM 3009 would crowd nearby neighborhoods and worsen already bad traffic.
Documents she obtained from the district after the election include a site map of a possible high school campus configuration on FM 3009 parcel, dated January 2017.
“The people who voted for it and were swayed by the incorrect information, by them not being transparent with the voters, which seemingly was done on purpose to get the bond passed,” Franklin said
But Denise Fox, a liaison between the district at two local school PTAs, said the public was alerted to the potential switch to FM 3009, which she called a great location for a school.
“They were very public about trying to get the best location possible,” she said, recalling presentations in April by Superintendent Andrew Kim at the Garden Ridge Elementary PTA and the Garden Ridge City Council.
Trustees say the fast-growing district is always looking for land to use as future campuses, and that no decision has been made to put HS4 on FM 3009.
“There was absolutely zero intention of misleading our constituents,” Trustee Amy Freund said Thursday.
Trustee Denise Kern said public input would be sought if the district moves forward on relocating HS4 from Hubertus Road. “We would involve a lot of people before we make that decision,” she said.