AUSTIN (KXAN) — At McCallum High School, students are dealing with unbearably hot classrooms, leaking ceilings and even rodents.

“When it rains, we have to set up trashcans,” said Kate Boyle, a senior journalism student.

Journalism students, like Boyle, have been documenting the issues over the years, hoping something would be done to fix the problems.

“You can see right there, there is a crack, and you can see into the ceiling,” Francie Wilhelm said as she walked down the halls, pointing out water spots.

Students told KXAN there have also been rats found and even a raccoon.

A raccoon was found inside McCallum High School recently. (Photo Courtesy: Francie Wilhelm)
A raccoon was found inside McCallum High School recently. (Photo Courtesy: Francie Wilhelm)

“That says no food, no candy, because we have rats,” Wilhelm said as she pointed to a sign on the door.

McCallum High was built in 1953, and over the years there have been some upgrades but not many.

“We do have many aging facilities, and that affects students in a variety of ways,” said Matias Segura, AISD’s chief of operations.

McCallum is not the only school in AISD that has issues like this. Last year, the district spent about $1.7 million on HVAC rentals to cool classrooms in the district, as many schools are dealing with old systems.

How did the district get to the point where so many facilities need major upgrades?

“I think it comes down to decisions that were made, the band-aid methodology that you talk about,” said Segura. “The reality of it all is that our ability to address the deficiencies comes out of our general operating budget, which is very small. An organization like AISD, AISD specifically, we send over $840 million to the state. So, for us, the rest of it is for salaries, so we don’t have a significant budget to address these deficiencies.”

The district said the long-term solution to fix these issues lies in the 2022 bond. The $2.44 billion bond package provides funding for schools that need improvements, like McCallum.

If passed, McCallum would get about $66 million for improvements. Some of the improvements the school could see include:

  • Secure entry vestibule
  • Life safety and security improvements
  • Heating and air conditioning improvements
  • Electrical improvements
  • Plumbing improvements
  • Roofing repairs or replacement
  • Football / soccer field upgrades, including artificial turf, lights, seating, concessions and restrooms
  • Student devices and peripheral equipment
  • Staff devices and peripheral equipment
  • Presentation / display systems for classrooms and other learning spaces
  • Districtwide technology security improvements
  • Districtwide upgrades to digital platforms
  • Districtwide network infrastructure upgrades

“If we are going to be spending these kinds of funds, we want to leave them improved and not have to go back for decades,” said Segura.

Wilhelm said investing in long-term solutions is important, adding she hopes people will vote for the 2022 bond package.

“If we don’t have a building that allows us to properly learn and educate our students that is going to cause so many problems down the line,” Wilhelm said.

If approved by voters in the Nov. 8 election, the proposed bond package would also fund improvements to athletics, fine arts and career and technical education facilities at Austin ISD high schools, new buses to replace older vehicles without air conditioning and provide new laptops for students and teachers.

AISD will be holding meetings to discuss the 2022 bond at multiple campuses in the coming weeks:

  • Monday, Sept. 26 – Northeast Early College High School
  • Monday, Oct. 3 – Crockett Early College High School
  • Thursday, Oct. 6 – Navarro Early College High School
  • Monday, Oct. 10 – Austin High School
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11 – Bowie High School
  • Monday, Oct. 17 – Akins Early College High School
  • Wednesday, Oct. 19 – LBJ Early College High School
  • Thursday, Oct. 20 – Anderson High School