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Spring 2007 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Phil Hatlen, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: Dr. Hatlen describes the new construction planned for TSBVI.

Key Words: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, TSBVI, Superintendent Phil Hatlen, blindness, renovation, Texas Building and Procurement Commission, TBPC, News & Views

During the 2005 legislative session, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) was provided $36,500,000 in revenue bond funds for campus renovation and construction. In typical bureaucratic fashion, it will have taken almost two years before we break ground on the new construction. In the meantime, the Texas Building and Procurement Commission (TBPC) has assumed administrative responsibility for the renovation and construction project. An architectural firm has been employed, and they have spent many hours working closely with TSBVI staff and our TBPC liaison to design the new buildings.

What began as a plan for eight specific projects has transitioned into something quite different. I'll try to explain the results of intensive investigation into the eight projects, and the outcome that will significantly transform our campus.

I'll begin by reviewing for you our current status. As you view the TSBVI campus with 45th Street at your back, you see a large classroom building in the middle, flanked by three smaller buildings on each side. These seven buildings, plus Dorm K further north on campus, were all built in 1916. The smaller buildings on each side of the classroom building and Dorm K were originally dormitories where students lived. The three on the East side of the classroom building were renovated about ten years ago, and continue to be used as dormitories. On the West side, the building closest to 45th Street now houses the TSBVI Museum and a few guest rooms. The next building is used solely for offices, and the third building is currently vacant. These 90-year-old buildings have served students well over the years, and should now be replaced. However, the passage of two years and the rising costs of construction have taken their toll on the $36.5 million, and we have had to revise plans considerably.

As some of you may know, we built five new student housing facilities two years ago. We're very pleased with these new facilities, as they are both student-friendly and relatively easy to supervise. By June we will break ground on another similar building that will be located on the East side of our campus. Currently, a number of Independent Living Houses are being removed from that location. The timing of the construction of this student housing building will coincide with that of a new four-plex on the northern edge of our campus, which will displace some Sunshine Community Gardens plots. We estimate that these two buildings will be ready for occupancy around November 2007.

In the northwest corner of the TSBVI campus is a dormitory called the Elementary Complex. This building is slated for demolition and replacement, beginning in June 2007. Not scheduled, but hopefully occurring soon thereafter, will be construction of a new main classroom building to be located where the parking lot lies in front of the current main classroom building. We will retain use of the current building while the new one is under construction, then demolish it. Concurrent with this will be construction of a new dining hall, natatorium, and fine arts building, located in the general vicinity of the current natatorium, pavilion, and basketball court.

These projects will stretch available funds to the maximum. However, they are part of a Master Plan created by the architects in consultation with TSBVI. This Master Plan would transform the entire campus, and its realization would result in a very beautiful school. We are going back to the legislature this year to request additional revenue bond funding, so that we may implement the remaining projects included in the Master Plan.