Saturday, the board of trustees, the administration, faculty members and many community members attended a special board meeting called to discuss facilities and student populations in our district.

The administration presented data attained from the Texas Education Agency, the school district's auditor, district audits, and school attendance records.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform the board of trustees and the public of the recommendations the administration is proposing to keep the district financially sound and change the configuration of grades for elementary and junior high school students.

The second plan proposed by the administration is to build the two elementary schools approved by the voters almost two years ago and change the grade configuration of Ortiz Intermediate School to Early Childhood Education through fifth grade and make the new Seale Junior High for sixth- through eighth grades.

The administration stated that the two schools would be built if the district were awarded the Instructional Facility Allotment funds.

The schools are Lotspeich Elementary and San Pedro Elementary. The plan proposes changing the grade configuration at these two campuses from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade to pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

The initial proposal was to combine Salazar, San Pedro and Hattie Martin students into one centrally located neighborhood campus. This proposal would leave Lotspeich Elementary operational on the Southside of town. The main reason for this plan involved safety issues of children, parents, and school buses having to cross the railroad tracks.

The reasons the administration is proposing these ideas are:

1.) Declining student enrollments. RISD has 143 fewer students enrolled district wide from a year ago. In the last 10 years (from the 1998-99 school year) the enrollment in RISD has declined from 4,286 to the current 3,416 students.

2.) Increase in electricity costs. In 2007-08, they budgeted $1.1million and this school year, 2008-09, they budgeted $1.8 million, or an increase of $700,000.

3.) Increase in fuel costs. In 2007-08, they budgeted $105,000. This year, 2008-09, they budgeted $262,450 for an increase of $157,450.

4.) Increase in food costs. In 2007-08, $741,000 was budgeted. In 2008-09, $852,150 was budgeted for food costs, or an increase of $111,150.

This added cost alone amounted to an increase of $968,000. This does not take into account the declining student enrollments, which cost the district approximately $6,000 for every student that leaves our district.

The administration informed the board the district has spent almost $1.5 million in roof and other maintenance repairs in the last two years. The upkeep of the old facilities is very costly and will continue unless the district moves forward in a different direction.

The direction is building new schools that are energy-efficient and provide a positive learning environment for teachers and students. Our current facilities are costly to maintain.

These facilities have served the community well over the years. We recommend that the school district continue to take advantage of state programs that provide from 78 percent to 85 percent of free guaranteed monies to build new schools.

This direction the administration stated is a RISD Board of Education decision because, by law, the administration can only recommend and keep the public abreast of the issues in our school district. The final decision rests with the board of trustees.

Yes, we realize that change is difficult, but not to change will deplete the financial resources of the district and the district will miss opportunities to move forward. The recommendations for these changes will probably occur in the September school board meeting.

Next week, my column will present advantages of adopting these proposals.

Roberto Garcia is the superintendent for the Robstown Independent School District. Readers may contact him via telephone at 767-6600, ext. 2223.