A small school district northeast of Austin is facing a football field-sized problem.
Taylor Independent School District’s athletic facilities are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Without the ADA-required access, TISD is vulnerable to lawsuits and penalties.
On Tuesday, voters in the city of Taylor rejected a bond that would have built a new all-inclusive athletics facility that would include accessibility for people who have disabilities. Now the school district faces the possibility of paying $1 million to renovate old athletics facilities that they don’t own.
One year ago, a parent brought a disabled child to a TISD football game. Unable to get the child into the bleachers, the parent raised concerns that led to TISD promising improvements.
Jerry Vaughn, the superintendent of TISD, voiced these concerns to the school board, which then began to create a plan to address them. This plan manifested itself as a $7 million bond proposal that would create an up-to-date athletic facility. The proposed facility would include football, baseball and softball fields that, unlike their current renditions, would be ADA compliant.
“Anytime you do not meet ADA accessibility requirements, you’re under a gun,” Vaughn said.
The school district now has to search for other answers since the bond proposal failed. TISD’s options include paying for renovations on the current fields. Those renovations could cost upwards of $1 million out of the school’s operations and maintenance budget.
Complicating the issue is the fact that TISD does not own the athletic facilities. They are owned by the city of Taylor. TISD also does not have a lease on the facilities.
Larry Robbins, a communications specialist for TISD, said the football field is 88 years old.
Neither Vaughn nor the school board was expecting the bond not to pass. Vaughn said the use of money to renovate the athletic facilities would have a negative impact on the education of students, because it’s money that could instead be used in the classrooms.
“We don’t have plan B. We worked for a year to devise what we felt was the best plan in the best interest of the district,” Vaughn said. “These issues are not going to go away. These issues are only going to become more magnified.”