The future of education in the Crossroads

Feb. 23, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 23, 2013 at 8:24 p.m.

More jobs mean more families and students may be in store for school districts in the Crossroads.

According to 2020 projections by the Ray Perryman Group, school districts will soon have to start bracing themselves for a growing student population in the Golden Crescent.

In the last six years, the Victoria school district has built two new high schools, a new middle school and two new elementary schools.

With the arrival of workers for Eagle Ford Shale and Caterpillar, more schools may be needed to accommodate the workers' children.

With the projected enrollment growth, a bond election for the construction of new schools may be necessary, Victoria Superintendent Robert Jaklich said.

"We'll be doing a demographic study of our own soon to prepare for the future," Jaklich said. "I absolutely do foresee another school being constructed for space."

For the 2012-2013 academic school year, VISD had to apply for classroom size waivers for several of its elementary school campuses.

But in Goliad, campuses have yet to reach capacity.

"Right now, our enrollment has been pretty steady," said Christy Paulsgrove, Goliad school district superintendent. "But this year we have seen an increase of 130 more students in our kindergarten classes."

Calhoun County ISD has seen some small growth this past year, said Superintendent Bill Wiggins.

"We haven't experienced the same type of growth rate as Victoria," Wiggins said. "But as our industries grow, so will our schools."

Over the last decade, Wiggins said, he's noticed a movement back to vocational studies and away from a traditional college-bond path at the high schools.

"School districts are working to get more involved with training their students for the workforce," Wiggins said. "I foresee the need for building more schools in our county for the future."

Between 2012 and 2020, the overall population in Calhoun, Goliad and Victoria counties is projected to increase from 119,120 to 135,160, according to the report.

The bulk of job growth is predicted to occur in the service, information and durable manufacturing industries.

In the spring of 2012, voters in Victoria County approved a $22 million bond for Victoria College to build a new Emerging Technology Center to meet the growing industries' needs.

"In the last few years, we've greatly expanded our truck driving program," said Victoria College President Tom Butler. "We want to provide space, for new programs, and at this new space we'll have six large training bays."

Representatives from Caterpillar approached the college before announcing its move to Victoria in 2010, Butler said.

"I would predict that we'll have a number of new companies moving into this area," Butler said. "We're keeping an eye on what jobs they are bringing."

The Texas Enterprise Fund gave Caterpillar a $1.18 million grant for its commitment to build in the state.

Part of those funds were used to purchase machinery for classroom instruction at the college.

"Caterpillar will be just one of the many companies that will be trained from this center," Butler said. "This building will see partnerships with many other industries in the areas, not just one firm."

After discussions with Caterpillar management, the University of Houston-Victoria School of Business Administration is developing a Bachelor of Business Administration concentration in supply chain management, President Phil Castille said.

"This will be a 12-credit block of courses that will be tailored to management needs for Caterpillar employees who are working toward a bachelor's in business," Castille wrote in an email.

The university's enrollment has risen 155 percent since 2000, and applications for the fall semester are up 245 percent from fall 2010, wrote Castille.

"This growth rate is the fastest of any public institution of higher education in Texas," Castille wrote. "We have factored rising population growth in the Crossroads region into our enrollment projections and calculations for adding academic space and dormitory capacity."

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