More than four years after Abilene voters approved a $138.7 million bond proposal in November 2018 – the largest ever passed in the history of the Abilene Independent School District – contractors have finished the final phase of construction by completing the renovation of CTE facilities at Abilene High and Cooper High School.

Approval of that proposal came five years after voters approved an $87.7 million bond program in 2013 which replaced three elementary schools (Bonham, Bowie, and Purcell), created a pair of hubs for early childhood education at the former Long and Crockett elementary schools, and renovated auditoriums at AHS, CHS, and Madison and Mann middle schools. The 2018 program resulted in new buildings for Austin, Dyess, and Taylor elementary schools, as well as the most extensive project in the district’s history: The LIFT, which houses the Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math, and Science (ATEMS) and a large number of CTE programs. Together, these two bond programs have ensured that seven of AISD’s thirteen elementary school facilities are now ten years old or younger.

“Schools operate in an environment of competition like never before, whether it’s neighboring school districts, private schools, or charter schools,” said Superintendent Young. “Those folks are trying to do a good job for kids, and I support everyone who is trying to do a good job for kids. My job is to make AISD the best choice, and we will do that unapologetically. We want families to know they should be here because it’s the best programming for students they’re going to find anywhere and that these facilities are the best they could ever participate in.”

A New Era for Excellence in Athletics and Fine Arts

The completion of the 2018 bond program also means that athletics and fine arts facilities have been revamped across the district. Due to the support of voters, the district was able to build an eight-lane competition track and field dubbed the Shotwell Annex to the northwest of Shotwell Stadium. The baseball and softball fields at AHS and CHS received turf infields and lights, and both schools received on-campus lighted turf football and soccer fields with spectator seating and scoreboards. Competition lighting was also added at AISD’s high school tennis complexes. Weight rooms were constructed for all four middle schools and four-lane tracks were added at Clack, Madison, and Mann. Finally, the construction of The LIFT paved the way for new rooms for bands, orchestras, and choirs at AHS and CHS, and new band halls were built at Madison and Mann middle schools. 

“A kid needs to walk into their school with their chest puffed out because it’s their school, and great things happen there,” Young said. “When I walk into these new facilities where I was privileged to be in programming and design conversations from the very beginning, I have to be honest and say that it makes me puff my chest out because kids are going to have opportunities in these facilities for years to come. A lot of people worked hard to make decisions about what they would need, and to see it all come together in a finished version is pretty cool.”

The three new elementary campuses and The LIFT built by the 2018 bond program are state-of-the-art facilities intended to serve the district for decades. Those facilities attract families and give students a sense of pride when they walk through the doors. Providing new and improved learning and practice spaces for high school and middle school bands, choirs, and orchestras was also essential in a district where 80 percent of students in grades K-12 participate in fine arts.

Lots of School Choices, But None Like AISD

In the era of school choice, the most ambitious bond project in AISD history has given the district a distinct advantage in an effort to recruit and retain teachers, staff, and students.

“We’ve changed the paradigm for kids in this district, and I’m very proud that our community said yes, let’s do this for our kids,” said Young. “This entire bond program was oriented toward not putting the AISD on the map, but keeping AISD on the map and at the forefront of people’s minds in terms of innovation and creative opportunities for kids. I believe it’s been successful.”

Completing each of the projects supported by the 2018 bond program doesn’t mean progress in the district has stopped. Construction is underway on the new press box at Shotwell Stadium and on multipurpose indoor turf facilities at AHS and CHS that will be used by athletics and fine arts programs. Those projects are just part of the ongoing effort to ensure that AISD remains the best choice for students and families in Abilene and the Big Country for years to come.