San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 22nd, 2010
CATE facility grows as trustees weigh spending

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San Marcos CISD Trustees David Castillo, left, and Jesse Ponce, right, at last week’s meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

A career and technology education (CATE) facility proposed for construction just east of San Marcos High School increased in size and scope last week, from an estimated cost of $3.4 million to $5.1 million.

In October, San Marcos CISD trustees voted, 5-2, to design a 13,000 square-foot vocational, agriculture and building trades CATE facility. Last week, trustees voted unanimously to add horticulture and culinary arts-related facilities, amounting to 5,700 more square feet.

In the same 7-0 vote, trustees approved planning for the renovation of existing classrooms at the high school. The renovations would create 4,020 square feet of multi-purpose space and a testing room.

The CATE facility and renovations are intended to service the new career academies program scheduled to begin at the high school in fall 2011.

Full implementation of career academies will involve dividing the approximately 2,100 high school students into groups devoted to general fields of study, namely:

• AACME, for agriculture, automotive, construction, military and engineering fields.
• FACT, for fine arts, communication and technology fields.
• H3, for healthcare, hospitality and human services fields.
• MLB, for marketing, law, and business fields.

San Marcos High School Principal Michelle Darling said horticulture fits into the applied sciences academy, which would include the agriculture program.

“We currently have two instructors who are certified in agriculture, and this would expand the courses that they could offer,” Darling said. “It also has some crossover benefit. It’s proximity to culinary arts has some benefit, as well as its biology base, and so it could house some lab things that that science department would be doing also.”

The 5,700 square feet added to the schematic design scope includes 2,100 square feet for a greenhouse.

Trustees hired Pfluger Associates Architects to create the CATE facility schematic design for approximately $25,000.

The $3.4 million and $5.1 million figures for the CATE facility “are not hard costs, those are just preliminary architect estimates,” said Michael Abild, San Marcos CISD assistant superintendent for business and support services.

Abild said if there are not enough remaining bond funds for the CATE facility, the board may authorize reserve funds for the project. Among the approximately $22.8 million in district reserve funds, trustees have designated $15 million for construction purposes.

Brad Pfluger of Pfluger Associates said construction of the CATE facility could start as summer begins.

“If we were to award a (construction) contract by the time school let out, that would probably be an optimistic prediction,” Abild said.

Pfluger said his firm has not determined whether the additional horticulture and culinary arts facilities should be included in the same building.

“We’re really trying to decide what’s the most economical way to build it at this point,” Pfluger said.

Pfluger said it is likely that a local company may be qualified to construct the CATE facility due to the size of the project. Pfluger said his firm will invite local general contractors to the pre-proposal conference before bidding begins.

“We’ll probably have 40 or 50 different subcontractors that work on this project,” Pfluger said. “And so, all the different finishes in the building will come from subcontractors, so there’s enormous opportunity for (local subcontractors) to bid on that.”

Pfluger said the pre-proposal conference is probably six months away.

In October, trustees authorized $1,509,525 in improvements to nine campuses.

“Concerning ongoing construction, the board is looking at the district as a whole in this matter,” said San Marcos CISD Trustees President Kathy Hansen. “We want to finish the high school with the CATE building, but we need to look at all the campuses and departments.”

Hansen said the board may renovate the Phoenix Learning Center or build a new one, “or a little of both.”

In October, Trustee David Chiu alluded to the possible cost of building a new Phoenix Learning Center. The Phoenix program serves as an alternative graduation route for students likely to drop out of high school in a traditional setting.

“Yes, we need a new building for the (Phoenix) program,” Chiu said. “But at $12 million? Let’s see what we can afford.”

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