DALLAS — The Conroe Independent School District needs to build at least seven new campuses to house a growing enrollment that’s projected to add about 21,500 students over the next eight years.

The district, which is about 30 miles north of downtown Houston, has a current enrollment of nearly 46,500 in 50 schools and is adding almost 1,500 students a year.

“That trend has been there for a number of years, at least the last 10, and it doesn’t appear that is going to change anytime soon,” said Kathy Clark, the district’s director of communications. “Our most recent demographic study indicates the growth will continue at the same pace and it’ll take about five years to build these new campuses.”

The district’s facilities planning committee recently unveiled its long-range facility plan. The committee expects to recommend to the board that the design phase of seven new schools begin as soon as possible, with projected costs of about $481 million in current dollars.

The exact amount of a potential bond package has yet to be identified, Clark said. But the committee’s inflation-adjusted estimates show total costs of nearly $530 million.

The school board would need to call for the election next month in order to have the referendum before voters in May.

The long-range facility plan calls for four new elementary schools, two junior high schools, one intermediate campus, renovations to numerous existing facilities, and the conversion of a junior high into a ninth-grade campus.

Other pressing needs include expansion of parking lots, improvements to some facilities to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and heating and air conditioning upgrades at older facilities.

If projections hold true over the next three years, many of the district’s schools will be running at over capacity in 2011.

RBC Capital Markets is the financial adviser to the Conroe ISD, which has $700 million of debt outstanding.

The district exhausted its voter-approved bond authorizations from 2001 and 2004 with the issuance of $125.4 million of school building and refunding bonds in October 2006.

The district carries underlying ratings of A-plus from Standard & Poor’s and Aa3 from Moody’s Investors Service.

Standard & Poor’s said the district’s credit strengths include inclusion in the Houston metropolitan area, a stable financial position with strong reserve levels, and proactive management of continuing growth pressures.

Analysts also said the district’s fiscal 2007 property tax base of $14.73 billion is up 48% since 2003.

Montgomery County has experienced rapid residential growth over the past quarter century, and the current population of about 413,000 is up more than 40% since the 2000 Census figure of nearly 294,000.

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