KARNACK-Karnack ISD has finished the first phase of its renovations as part of its "Adopt a Room" project to restore the district's grounds that began during the summer of 2016.
The most recent area completed, the district's administration offices, rounds out a $9,500 project for the first phase that included renovating and updating two locker rooms, a completely rebuilt coach's office, two hall restrooms, the school secretary's office, six classrooms, a teacher's break room and the administration offices.
"None of this would have been possible without the help and support of numerous people, organizations, community members and the Karnack ISD staff," Karnack ISD Superintendent Amy Dickson said Friday. "Not only did people donate money and supplies, they donated their time and this was a labor of love."
More than 50 individual volunteers and organizations pitched in to update the school, whose current elementary campus was first constructed in 1938.
The Adopt a Room project, started by Dickson in 2016 proved to be a helpful tool to update a school that is required to give about a third of its annual budget back to the state as part of Chapter 41, Dickson said.
"Karnack ISD is the perfect storm for the problems with the state's school finance system," Dickson said. "If we could keep the $800,000 we are required to give back to the state every year, we could have handled these projects in house."
Dickson said she would like to see the school finance issue addressed by lawmakers during the current 85th legislative session.
"Karnack ISD is declared a Chapter 41 Wealth Equalization District by the state," she said earlier this school year. "This code requires school districts that are property wealthy to share their wealth with school districts that are property poor. This is an extremely misleading and unfair system of equalization for our district. For example, for the 2015-16 school year, Karnack ISD gave the state about $1 million out of a $3 million budget."
More than a third of most school districts' budgets goes towards personnel requirements, leaving Karnack ISD just about $500,000 for operating costs throughout the year, Dickson said.
"It is true that there is property wealth in our district with the oil and gas industry but this wealth does not touch our school or in particular our students," she said. "We are the only district that has a 100 percent low socioeconomic student population and we have the lowest tax rate in the state."
Thanks to the outpouring of support, the district only had to put up about $4,100 of its own money to provide the new flooring for the administration offices.
"We began the project this summer working on the student areas first and waited to do the administration offices last," Dickson said. "Our goals for phase two of the Adopt a Room project to finish the rest of the needed updates would cost about $10,000."
Dickson said she hopes to get started on phase two as soon as the district is able to raise the funds.
"I'm working on letters to send out to area churches and organizations now because I know most of them are working on their mission plans right now," she said. "Phase two of the project would include adding walls in the administration area so the staff could have divided offices. We would also like to replace the carpet in the main hallway of the school because it is about 20 years old. The most recent estimate we received for the carpet was a little more than $5,000. We also plan to add a sign in front of the school because there currently is no sign to identify what it is and we plan to paint the front of the school and the trim as well as the outside of the administration building."
Dickson said staff, community members and students have taken notice of the renovations and are excited for the district.
"They all love it and we're not even finished yet," she said.
In addition to the campuses' updates, Dickson said enrollment is up.
"We were at about 124 students last school year and we are at about 142 right now," she said. "That is almost back up to what our enrollment was when we had the high school."
In December, Karnack ISD was recognized as one of 12 districts in the state to be featured in the 10th annual Texas School Business magazine's Bragging Rights 2016-2017 special issue.
Texas School Business Magazine Bragging Rights recognizes districts' best practices - saying the districts have implemented programs that are bettering the lives of students, schools and communities.
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