TCTA testified in support of proposed Texas Education Agency rules requiring new construction projects in school districts to provide extra square footage for classes larger than 25 students in grades 5-12 as well as in classrooms with large furniture and equipment at a Dec. 1, 2016, TEA hearing on proposed revisions to school facilities rules.
TCTA views many of TEA’s proposed provisions as improvements on current rules, increasing safety requirements for school facilities and ensuring that students have adequate instructional space. TCTA expressed concerns about TEA’s proposal to eliminate current rules governing school construction prior to Jan. 1, 2004, noting that a good number of school facilities to which the rules were applicable continue to exist and the standards need to remain in the rules so they can continue to be enforced. TCTA also recommended the proposed rules include a provision clarifying that school districts are required to provide extra square footage for classes larger than 22 students in grades K-4.
TEA issued the proposed rules for public comment in September, and TCTA also submitted written comments supporting many of the provisions to the school facilities rules, including:
- increasing the minimum square feet per classroom for combination science laboratories/classrooms in middle school;
- providing safety and storage requirements for science laboratories;
- requiring that special education classrooms be large enough to accommodate the individualized education program (IEP) of students assigned to the classroom;
- requiring school districts to provide automatic sprinkler systems or other fire suppression systems for fire protection, fire suppression, and life safety as part of their school facilities projects and where not otherwise required by local code;
- requiring that all new educational facilities be designed in a manner that controls visitor access during the school day;
- requiring that portable, modular buildings comply with all space, minimum square foot, and design requirements and either have or be within 500 feet of an accessible toilet; and
- requiring that school districts ensure that facilities are constructed to comply with multi-hazard emergency operations plans adopted under TEC, §37.108.
TCTA will continue to monitor and report on developments on the proposed rules as they occur. TEA is expected to issue final rules once consideration of public testimony and comments has concluded.