The Robstown Independent School District Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve a preliminary design for a new elementary school for the district, and approved the sale of bonds to fund the new school.

The new school will include 47 classrooms already designated for use, with as many as 8 additional classrooms available for future growth.

One classroom will be designated as a "Classroom of the future," with state-of-the-art technology.

As it is currently designed, Gignac said, the campus will have the capacity to serve 1,000 students.

The preliminary design was approved in a 5-1 vote, with board member Robert Tapia voting against the motion. Tapia said he was not in favor of moving forward with the project until a project manager can be hired to oversee the construction.

Board members Adolfo Lopez, Richard Gonzaalez, Osvaldo Romero, Eva Orona and Ernesto Gallegos voted in favor of the motion. Board member Pablo Avila was not present at Monday's meeting.

Much of the discussion Monday centered on the method by which a contractor will be selected for the project. One method proposed by Gignac was to go through a sealed competitive bid process. Under that process, once the plans for the project have been finalized, they would be published. Contractors would then submit sealed bids for the project, and those contractors would be rated by the district and one would be selected by the board. A second method proposed by Gignac is "Construction Manager At-Risk." Under that method, the district would submit a request for proposal from contractors. Contractors could then submit proposed bids for the completion of the project before plans were finalized, with the bid submitted to remain unchanged. When questioned by the board, Gignac said while both methods have benefits and drawbacks, the Construction Manager At-Risk method would accelerate the process and allow the district to take advantage of a down construction market.

Board members ultimately voted 5-1 to table the item so that both methods may be reviewed more thoroughly by the district's construction committee. Orona was the only member to vote against tabling the item Monday.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approved the sale of bonds to finance the new construction. According to information presented to the board by Robert Tijerina, bond counsel, the bonds will be sold at a rate of 3.84 percent for a 30-year loan. Tijerina praised the board for selling the bonds at a rate under four percent, something he said was extremely rare.

Factors that include a low interest rate, combined with a slight increase in property valuations and a decision by the board to refinance other existing debt earlier this year, added up to a savings for the district on the Interest and Sinking Fund side of its tax rate. When the bond proposal was presented to the voters in May, the district anticipated an I&S tax rate of 48 cents, Tijerina said. The actual tax rate will be 43.1 cents on the I&S side.

Of the $12.4 million approved by the voters, 68 percent will be paid by the state through an Instructional Facilities Allotment. The cost of the bonds over 30 years will be an estimated $21 million, with $14.2 million paid by the state, Tijerina said.

Along with the discussion of the new school, the board also considered a question of whether to keep the library building that exists at the old San Pedro Elementary.

While most of the old facility was demolished when the new school was constructed earlier this year, demolition was postponed for the library. Gignac said demolition was postponed because the building is relatively new, and could still be used by the district.

"In my opinion, it's a building worth saving," Gignac told the board.

The new San Pedro Elementary has a new library, so board members said other options for use should be explored by the district.

Gignac said the cost of saving the structure is estimated at $17,700, which is needed to repair an air conditioning unit and perform other minor renovations.

The board approved a motion to keep the structure in a 5-1 vote, with Orona voting against the measure.