"We have good teachers, good equipment, and good programs.  We need a good building to house them," said Kelly Legg, Dumas Independent School District (DISD) Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.  She, along with DISD Superintendent Monty Hysinger, was showing members of the Facilities Advisory Committee the "ag building" at Dumas High School (DHS), a metal, temporary building that now houses many of the school's growing career technical programs, such as welding.  According to Legg and Hysinger, the building is crowded, rusting, and poorly ventilated.  The electrical wiring is aging and inadequate to the demands placed on it.  The district has expanded these career tech programs (formerly known as vocational education)  at DHS in recent years, and Hysinger and Legg say a new building to house them is a "major priority."  

The Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC) was touring all the district secondary schools on Saturday: Dumas High School, Dumas Jr. High School, and North Plains Opportunity Center.  The committee toured the elementary schools in January.  The FAC is a group of Dumas residents put together by Hysinger and the DISD administration to work on coming up with a long-term plan for the renovation and replacement of district facilities.  With most schools having been built between 1932 and 1968, DISD struggles with constant maintenance issues.  Just two weeks ago, leaks forced the district to replace the entire outside, underground gas system at Green Acres Elementary School.  Hysinger has brought in Paul Troutman, a facilities consultant from Austin, to survey the schools and identify needs that are likely to arise in coming years.  The FAC will take his report and, along with administrators, prioritize projects in light of what students will likely need in the immediate future, the long-term, and what taxpayers are willing to support.  With major renovation projects complicated by issues like asbestos abatement and the requirement to bring bathrooms and other things up to code, the committee and administration will have to determine where it makes sense to renovate and where it is better or more cost effective to build new.  

The North Plains Opportunity Center is a relatively new facility.  Originally the Dumas Economic Development Corporation building, the building was modified to serve as a school for students who, as Principal Carl Clements says, "need some extra love and attention."  Though Clements says he would like to have larger classrooms, and the school is using some portable classrooms, the facility seems to work for the 60 students in his care.

"Learning is taking place here," said Dumas Jr. High School Principal Kurt Baxter.  The main buildings of both Dumas High School and Dumas Jr. High have undergone major renovations in recent years.  But Hysinger and the principals of the two schools -- Baxter at Jr. High and Brett Beesley at DHS -- have identified a number of issues that they say will need to be addressed at both campuses.  While the main buildings at the two campuses have been worked on, the outlying buildings housing everything from band and choir to shop and other classes have not.  Hysinger and Baxter say Jr. High has plumbing issues, among other things.  The boys locker and shower rooms under what was once the boys gym are no longer adequate to meet the needs of students and will need to be changed in the future, as will the choir and band halls.   

Beesley at DHS says most of the main building looks good, but stepping into the outlying buildings is like a "trip back to the 1950's."  DHS has many very nice science and other classrooms that are part of an addition built in 2008, but the older classrooms were not remodeled at that time, and they are beginning to show the effects of time and wear.  Hysinger would like to remodel them to fit with the remodeled halls and new addition, but he says his top priorities for the school are the electrical wiring and an expanded facility to house band, choir and other fine arts -- in addition to a facility to house career technical programs.  The electrical wiring is a particularly pressing issue.  Modern education consumes vast quantities of electricity, especially compared to the 1940's, when DHS was built.  Hysinger says that when it rains, parts of the school actually lose power.  DISD Director of Operations Eddie Crossland says the kitchen at DHS is "the worst I have ever seen" and will need to be changed to continue to function.  When the building that now houses the band and choir halls was built in 1975, whoever designed it put only one small bathroom in the building.  With over 200 students using it daily, "it is no wonder that we are having to constantly work on it," said Crossland.

Hysinger and the principals of both schools say creating a more secure entrance at both schools is an immediate priority.

Like the elementary schools, the secondary schools appear clean and well maintained.  But as Hysinger and others point out, they all have aging infrastructure and they have been added to and modified over the years.  At the same time, the educational needs of students have changed over time and will continue to change in the future.  The committee will have a lot to consider over the coming months in coming up with an affordable plan for going forward.  Hysinger expects the work of the committee to take until late fall.        

City/Features Editor

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