SAISD spent millions of dollars from 2020 bond money on schools now scheduled to shutter

At least 57 bond projects tied to campuses impacted by ‘Rightsizing’

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Independent School District has spent more than nine million dollars from its 2020 bond at campuses scheduled to shut down, records compiled by KSAT Investigates show.

Nearly 70% of SAISD voters in November 2020 approved the district to authorize close to $1.3 billion in bonds for aging infrastructure renovations, security improvements and the replacement of school heating and cooling systems.

But nearly three years to the day since that historic vote, district leaders last fall completed an about-face, voting to instead implement a “Rightsizing” plan to address declining enrollment.

The plan, which calls for 15 schools to be closed, most at the end of the current school year, will allow SAISD to operate more efficiently, district officials have told KSAT and the public.

But the timing of the undertaking, which also includes school consolidations, has been questioned, as it is occurring on the heels of the massive bond approval.

SAISD Senior Executive Director of Planning and Construction Yvonne Little. (KSAT)

“When the bond was passed back in 2020, November 2020, the district administration at the time, ‘Rightsizing’ wasn’t an initiative for them,” said Yvonne Little, SAISD’s executive senior director of planning and construction.

Little described the bond program as currently going through a “pivot,” as the district attempts to re-appropriate the bond funds.

More than $1 million spent at now-closing Highland Park Elementary School

Bond expenditure records obtained by KSAT Investigates show more than a million dollars was spent at Highland Park Elementary School, even though renovations at the Southeast Side campus had yet to begin.

The $1,076,783 was spent on surveys, a structural analysis and design development, according to Little.

Highland Park is scheduled to shut down at the end of the current school year.

Little confirmed renovation construction had not started at any of the closing campuses and plans were still in the design phase at each location.

SAISD said the more than $1 million spent at Highland Park Elementary School was for surveys and design plans. Construction had not gotten underway. (KSAT)

Storm Elementary School, Steele Montessori Academy and Huppertz Elementary were three other campuses where more than a half-million dollars was spent on the design phase, records show.

The bond expenditure records also show five-figure security improvements, including the installation of cameras, were completed at campuses now scheduled to shut down.

Records show $76,168 was spent on security improvements at Tynan Early Childhood Education Center. (KSAT)

This list includes Forbes Academy and Miller Elementary School.

The records also show significant six-figure HVAC work continues at campuses that are either consolidating or closing, including Knox Early Childhood Education Center and Beacon Hill Academy.

Nearly $700,000 was spent on ongoing HVAC work at Beacon Hill Academy. (KSAT)

“Cameras can be moved and repurposed, chillers can be moved and repurposed,” said Little, who added that SAISD does not plan to sell off any properties where closing schools exist.

“Our mothball plan wants us to keep our HVAC at least at an unoccupied temperature so that we can mitigate any bacteria growth or anything happening in the campus,” said Little.

She said the district is working to identify groups, including possible charter schools, to move into these properties once the SAISD schools currently occupying them close down.

As of late last year, around $9.1 million in bond expenditures had been spent at campuses scheduled to close.

Little said that figure will continue to fluctuate as the district reconciles projects, notifies architects that some plans will not move forward and possibly even gets credits back for work not completed.

KSAT found at least 57 bond projects tied to SAISD campuses impacted by “Rightsizing.” This figure includes schools that are closing, relocating or merging with other campuses.

Under the “Rightsizing” plan, close to three dozen schools will receive additional students and staff.

Impacted students will have the ability to choose the school of their preference, officials previously said.

Ongoing maintenance problems at SAISD schools were on full display last week, as the district was forced to temporarily close its campuses because of system failures and heating issues.

Two top operations staff members: its deputy superintendent of operations and its chief of operations, submitted their resignations late last week.

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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