When the bell rings at Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD’s L.D. Bell High School, the volleyball team heads to the locker room, changes into their athletic clothes and walks past the gymnasium to the double doors leading outside the school.

Without a court available for their practice, the team instead sets, spikes and serves on the school’s tennis court.

To address this and many other issues, including outdated school buildings, HEB ISD is seeking approval of  a nearly $1 billion bond package in the upcoming Nov. 7 election. 

“It’s a size issue, it’s an infrastructure issue,” Deanne Hullender, chief public relations and marketing officer for the district, said of two of the district’s high schools. 

The bond aims to replace the aging L.D. Bell and Trinity High School campuses with new facilities, as well as revamp an elementary school designated to accommodate the alternative KEYS High School. 

Early voting begins Oct. 23 and ends Nov. 3. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 10.

The ballot presented to voters will include two propositions: 

  • Proposition A, which totals $979.3 million, is intended for new facilities, including new high schools and elementary schools
  • Proposition B, amounting to $18 million, is directed toward updating technology. 
Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD voters will consider a $1 billion bond in an upcoming November election. This is a conceptual rendering of what L.D. Bell High School could look like if the voters see the bond through. (Courtesy | Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD).

How the tax rate will be affected

HEB ISD’s tax rate will be increased if voters approve the bond. The rate will see incremental increases for four years, starting in 2024:

  • 5 cents in 2024
  • 7 cents in 2025
  • 1 cent in 2027

Officials expect the rate to be 13.76 cents higher by 2027. The current rate is 92.11 cents per $100 of valuation. The rate is expected to be $1.0587 in 2027. 

While the tax rate will increase, it will still be lower than what HEB ISD levied in 2022, which was $1.1098. 

It’s difficult to determine how many actual dollars the owner of an average home in the district will pay to HEB ISD in 2027. This is because appraisal values aren’t set that far in advance.

‘Consider the possibilities’

In June of this year, a group of school board members and the facility planning task force recommended the bond. 

The package is designed to meet the future needs of the school district; Trinity High School, with its 11 buildings and 78 exterior doors, doesn’t meet updated state safety standards, Hullender said. 

At the June facility planning task force meeting, Steve Farco, a committee member and a Bedford council member, told the school board that Trinity and L.D. Bell high schools were constructed in the Cold War era.

In 1978, Farco was a fifth grader at Bedford Heights Elementary, and the school was new. Now, it’s aging badly, he added. Last time Farco was there, he saw aged desks and paint peeling off walls. 

The upgrades would benefit not only students, Farco said, but the whole Hurst-Euless-Bedford area that lies north of Fort Worth.

“DFW is the melting pot. Our cities are talking about redevelopment. … We don’t want to continue to let us deteriorate,” he said. “Consider the possibilities of what we could do with state-of-the-art schools … consider the possibilities.”

‘A quality place’

Other members of the task force recounted their experiences visiting the aging schools, where they observed ductwork suspended from classroom ceilings at Trinity High School and encountered small, cramped classrooms at Bell Manor Elementary.

High school science laboratories don’t meet the Texas Education Agency standards, and auditoriums aren’t in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Trinity High School in Euless, constructed in 1969, is facing issues like cracked pipes and foundation problems, Hullender said. 

Jeannette Cook, a member of the task force, was on some of these tours.

“I was horrified, absolutely horrified,” said Cook, who also noted classrooms having startlingly loud air conditioning units. 

“Imagine taking a test and all of the sudden that loud noise comes on,” she said. “We need to provide our staff with a quality place to work and provide a great education for our kids.”

The bond proposes replacing the 11 buildings on the Trinity High School campus through a phased approach and constructing a new high school adjacent to the current L.D. Bell facility in Hurst, which was built in 1965. 

Bell Manor Elementary would be renovated to accommodate KEYS High School. A new campus for Bell Manor Elementary would be built as well. 

Potential hurdle for bond approval

In May 2018, HEB ISD voters passed a $199 million bond that focused on the refurbishment of the district’s junior high campuses. The bond passed with 71% of the vote. 

In 2011, HEB ISD voters approved two bond packages for $136.5 million. These allowed for building repairs, classroom technology upgrades and the relocation of two buildings due to expansion of Texas State Highway 183. 

In 1997, district voters approved a $170 million bond package that provided for major technology upgrades and allowed major renovations at nearly all campuses.

Some bonds have had difficulties passing in other districts across Tarrant County. 

Fort Worth ISD voters approved one proposition out of four in its proposed $1.5 billion bond in 2021.

Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD voters rejected a $275 million bond in 2022. Now the district is asking residents to approve a $659.1 million bond in November.

The challenges in getting bonds passed across Tarrant County emphasized to HEB ISD the need to pay attention to what voters want. 

“We’re listening to the parents, we’re listening to the community,” Hullender said, hopeful that HEB ISD voters will see the bond through.

What projects are planned in the bond?

Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD voters will consider a two-part, $997.3 million bond in November. Here’s what the district plans to do:

Prop A – $979.3 million

New and replacement schools and additions:

  • L.D. Bell High School replacement
  • Trinity High School replacement
  • Bell Manor Elementary replacement (Spring 2026)
  • Hurst Hills Elementary replacement (Fall 2026)
  • Wilshire Elementary replacement (Spring 2027)
  • Midway Park Elementary replacement (Fall 2027)
  • Bell Manor conversion to KEYS/DAEP

Safety and security:

  • Secure entry addition at Hurst Junior High
  • Equipment for school security officers
  • Address campus security at every school according to House Bill 3 requirements

Technology – Infrastructure and Security

  • The district’s technology infrastructure would be upgraded to support student devices and improve functionality across the district.

Prop B – $18 million

Technology – Devices

  • Includes new portable devices to continue to prepare students for 21st-century learning. The current student to device ratio is 2.5-to-1. After the purchase of new portable devices, the student to device ratio would be 1.3-to-1, which is comparable to neighboring districts.
  • Funds would also be used to purchase interactive digital display boards, document cameras and projectors for classrooms, and to replace aging equipment such as desktop and laptop computers.

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.com or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...