Treasure Hills getting $8M upgrade

HARLINGEN — The old section of Treasure Hills Elementary has filled its box with a rich tapestry of memories.

So powerful are those memories, the school district has deemed it necessary to protect them with a new home.

It would have been nice to keep the old building for many more years, but about three years ago a section suffered some damage in a storm, requiring a quick fix. However, as quick fixes go, it couldn’t last forever.

The entire project is expected to cost $8 million in TRE funds. Those are extra tax dollars collected through the Tax Ratification Election passed by voters two years ago.

The building sustained some damage in a storm a few years ago.

“We had a situation about three years ago on a section where the wood trusses with the additional weight and the age and the water actually cracked in two of the trusses,” said Oscar Tapia, assistant superintendent for district operations.

“We had to go in there and replace them with steel trusses and did a new section of roof there,” he said. “That was on a high roof which was the old cafeteria. And so we replaced the roof and it’s new. That’s just one small section of that wing.”

The problem was fixed for the moment, but an engineer took a look at the situation and gave a rather disconcerting verdict.

“He said they’re fine, they’re in good shape, but I would recommend in the next five years or so you either replace these wood trusses or consider knocking the building down and building it new,” Tapia said.

The argument for completely rebuilding the section was obvious. Upon taking down the wood trusses, they’d have to demolish the entire roof and the air conditioning system, along with the light fixtures, the wiring and the speakers.

“If you take off your trusses, there’s nothing to hold up any of that,” he said. “So you have to knock all of that down so the only thing you’re going to have left standing are your four walls and your slab. You do that you’re better off knocking it down and building it new. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

Tapia speculated the district would bid out the contract early next year to build the new structure and actual construction would begin in April or May.

“Right when school’s out, we’ll start digging the holes for the new foundation and hopefully have the concrete slab poured so when school starts next August we’ll start going vertical with the walls,” he said.

“If you start doing digging the holes, compacting the new soil and doing the slab, it makes the ground vibrate a lot and you can feel it in other parts of the campus.”

He expects the new wing to be completed by the end of the 2018–2019 school year.

“Right when that happens in the summer we’ll move all teachers and the desks to the new wing and then we’ll start demolition of the old wing,” he said. “Once that demolition’s done over the summer, we’re going to do an addition to the office area, administration area and we’ll redesign the whole front and that’ll finish out the project.”

The school district has already hired Mike Allex with ROFA Architects to design a new two-story wing to replace the old section, Tapia said.

“He’s going to do a design concept which we are already going to present to our team here to do a two-story wing and build that while the current wing is still in place,” Tapia said.

“When the new wing is done we’ll move all the kids over there. Then we go back and knock down the old building and we won’t have to bring in portables or displace anybody.”

Years of elementary school construction

Bowie: 1928

Austin: 1940

Stuart Place: 1940

Crockett: 1950

Dishman 1952

Milam: 1955

Houston: 1957

Travis: 1975

Treasure Hills: 1978