Many school districts, with money from bond programs approved before the economy soured, are still letting projects, but fewer districts are asking voters to approve bond issues.

“Clearly the need for facilities is still there,” says Charles E. DeVoe III, president of Charter Builders in Dallas.

Charter Builders began work in the winter on a $98-million high school and stadium for Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District in Fort Worth, and Lewisville ISD selected Charter Builders to complete a $40-million 131,000-sq-ft addition and renovation at its 1897-era high school.

Cameron C. Curtis, manager for business development at Turner Construction Co. in Dallas, says schools remain a strong market for his firm. Dallas and Fort Worth ISDs are still working through bond programs.

Turner is building the $35-million, 162,000-sq-ft Forest Middle School and 11 renovation projects for the Fort Worth ISD and doing $15 million in renovations at five Dallas ISD schools. For the Houston ISD, the company serves as program manager on a $100-million bond program for renovations and additions to 23 schools and is the construction manager for three elementary schools—Lockhard/Turner, James DeAnda and Peck. Each of the three schools will cost $12 million, as will Carnegie Vanguard High School, another Turner project. All are in the preconstruction stage.

Curtis says districts are also adding athletic and performing arts facilities, such as Turner’s $38-million athletic complex for Beaumont ISD, which includes a 10,365-seat stadium and a 27,719-sq-ft natatorium building, and the addition of a gymnasium and cafeteria at Skyline High School in the Dallas ISD.

McCarthy Building Cos. of Dallas also has received some work from the Dallas ISD bond program. Marc Robertson, project director for McCarthy, says the firm is working on nine campuses, completing about $50 million in renovations, including a $24-million job at Wilmer-Hutchins High School and its stadium, which joined the Dallas district about five years ago.

“Most of the inside is being demolished and we’re building it back, with all new electrical and HVAC systems,” Robertson says. “It will be like a new school.”

Kirk Kistner, vice president of marketing and business development for Bartlett Cocke General Contractors in San Antonio, says his company will finish 18 schools this summer and continues work on several more, including the $69-million, 350,000-sq-ft University High School for Waco ISD; a $32-million, 161,181-sq-ft middle school for Carroll ISD in Southlake; and a $26.9-million, 222,703-sq-ft addition to Dickinson High School for the Dickinson ISD.

Pogue Construction of McKinney recently began a $15-million career and technology center and a $28-million performing arts center and band-hall project for the Allen ISD in Allen, and it received a contract to build a $50-million, 18,000-seat stadium for the Allen ISD.

The company also is working on a $12-million addition and renovation at Shands Elementary School and a $12-million addition at Tosch Elementary, both for the Mesquite ISD, and a $24-million high school and football stadium in Boyd for the Boyd ISD.

Bond programs continue

Bond programs passing in 2009 totaled slightly more than $2 billion, but that’s down significantly from 2007 and 2008, Kistner says. About 25% of the 2010 total is in the Northside ISD in San Antonio, which passed a $535-million bond program.

“Several school districts were watching that bond program to see what happened,” Kistner says. “With that passing, I think you will see several school districts go out for a bond, maybe not in November but probably in May [2011].”

Chris Huckabee, CEO of Huckabee of Fort Worth, says several bond programs are planned for a mix of renovation and new construction. “We are doing a tremendous amount of planning and assessment work, which I see as a good sign,” he adds.

Turner’s Curtis says about half of the bond issues put forward by districts in May passed.

“Even with the economy, they are still passing bond programs for schools,” he says. “There’s still population growth.”