Presidio ISD School Board discusses practice gym project 

PRESIDIO — At last Wednesday’s meeting, the Presidio School Board discussed plans for a practice gym to serve the school’s athletic programs. The school’s latest gym project — an expansion of the existing gym to allow extra space for assemblies, performances and other events — was wrapped up in time for last school year’s graduation festivities, but the board is hoping to add more facilities down the road in the form of a practice gym.

The school board has already put out bids for what they call a “shell” for the future gym. “We want to work on it a little bit at a time,” said Board Member Jugo Ramos. The board’s initial request for bids came back with a single bid for $2.3 million, which they decided was far too high — a subsequent request came back on Tuesday night with a more workable $1.2 million.

To get inspiration for the project, Superintendent Ray Vasquez visited the new Terlingua CSD gym, which was officially unveiled in September. The Terlingua CSD campus itself is relatively new — it was completed in 1996 and an outdoor track and recreation area were added a few years later, but neither the Terlingua school district or San Vicente ISD, which serves Big Bend National Park, had a proper indoor multipurpose space. 

The Big Bend Gazette reported on the Terlingua gym in its October 2021 issue — at the start of the project, the Terlingua school district dedicated $2 million from its fund balance toward the project, which was bolstered by outside donations, grants and use agreement from San Vicente ISD. 

Vasquez thought the Terlingua case study provided a great framework for Presidio’s practice gym project, though Presidio ISD serves a much larger student population. “It’s good to get comparisons on isolated areas where it’s tough to bring things in,” he said. 

In addition to the usual logistical problems facing schools in the Big Bend, the price of building materials has skyrocketed since the pandemic — even with proper long-term budgeting, there was no way the board could have predicted how much more basic materials would cost. “Things are much more expensive right now,” Vasquez said.

The two bids received by the district came from outside contractors, which some school board members found odd. Board Member Fidel Baeza asked why none of Presidio’s hometown contractors had sent in a bid. The answer came down to licensing and insurance — contractors without the proper bonding are not covered by the school’s Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) insurance. “It’s a lot more responsibility for the district,” Vasquez said.

The board ultimately decided to take no action on the last-minute bid at Wednesday’s meeting to allow more time to weigh the pros and cons of moving ahead with designing the fundamentals of the gym “shell.”

Presidio ISD currently has a fund balance of around three times the minimum required to keep the schools running. The district’s auditor is slated to come to next month’s meeting to help offer guidance on the school’s financial priorities. “We’ll have to spend some of that to get this up and running,” Vasquez said. “We have to focus on what’s going to be good for the kids.”