BLUFF DALE — The high school and gymnasium approved earlier this year by voters for the expanding student population in the Bluff Dale Independent School District could be ready for use by the start of school next fall.

Approval of the $5.1 million bond proposal set in motion the construction of the facility, which will total approximately 30,000 square feet. Lyness Construction of Cleburne is the contractor and the first groundbreaking was on Nov. 8. The target date for completion is August 2019, in time for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

The new building will include high school student classrooms for grades 9-12 on one side, plus classrooms for 3rd-8th graders on the other side. The gym area (for basketball and volleyball) will have a concession area, restrooms, coach's office, and boys and girls locker rooms. There will also be a new kitchen and cafeteria, along with a library/media center and science lab.

Although the bond was approved, the amount of money now projected to cover all of the costs has grown, so interim superintendent Dean Edwards said that the Bluff Dale ISD is seeking sponsors to help make up some of the extra funding needed.

“Construction costs have gone up and we’re looking at sponsorships to complete our additional classrooms and gymnasium areas,” Edwards said. “We’re looking at sponsorships of classrooms and bleachers for the gym.”

When the school board approved adding the high school to the existing pre-K through 8th grades, the student population grew to the current level of just over 240. That includes 53 now in the high school grades.

The existing cafeteria was designed to serve only about 60 students, Edwards noted. After the move to the new building, there are plans to re-purpose the existing one.

Christine Murphy, the business manager for Bluff Dale ISD, said there are now 37 staff members at the school including a total of 22 teachers.

The growing population in the nearby Mountain Lakes subdivision, along with students from the community who had been attending high school in either Stephenville or Tolar also contributed to the growth.

“We went from 105 students at the end of May 2017,” said Edwards, who spent 31 years as superintendent at Morgan Mill but came out of retirement to take the position after former Bluff Dale Superintendent Bill Morgan left to take a job in East Texas. “Our enrollment jumped to 195 in the fall.”

To accommodate the additional students when the high school students arrived in the fall, seven portable buildings are being used.

The tax rate increased from $1.05 three years ago to $1.37 when the bond was approved, according to Edwards. But the community has been supportive, Edwards noted.

“They’re standing behind us,” Edwards said. “They’re standing tall.”

“We’re looking forward not only to the extra room and better educational facilities, but also to open up a lot of opportunities for what we can do with our students in the junior high and high school,” said John Taylor, who had been the junior high school principal in Clarendon for eight years and is in his first year as the Bluff Dale High School principal. “Another thing (the expansion) will help us do is update our technology. We’ll have a much better network and wireless infrastructure. We’re going to put laptop computers in the classrooms.”

When varsity football was reinstated in the fall, the Bobcats posted a 5-5 record, including a huge 57-12 victory in their season opener on Sept. 1. Bluff Dale’s junior high football team was undefeated, at 8-0. In volleyball, the varsity Lady Bobcats made the playoffs.

The details about the sponsorships are still being worked out, but a tentative early plan is to have three levels — Bronze, Silver and Gold.

“We haven’t really determined those thresholds,” Edwards said, adding that he is pleased to be “part of our exciting growth.”

For more information from the superintendent about sponsorships and dedications, call Edwards the school at 254-728-3277.