McAllen school board OKs updated Quinta Mazatlan agreement

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The McAllen Independent School District Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve an updated memorandum of understanding between the district and the city outlining responsibilities tied to a $4 million investment from the district into an expansion project at Quinta Mazatlan.

The $4 million will fund the McAllen ISD Discovery Center, a 5-acre outdoor park with teaching pavilions and outdoor classrooms that is itself just a component of a larger Center for Urban Ecology expansion at the sanctuary.

Federal ESSER funds put the district in a position to afford the investment.

The board approved the agreement in concept last month, but requested the opportunity to review an updated memorandum spelling out in more detail what the district would gain from the investment.

Trustees worried last month over the project not benefiting McAllen students enough and about securing an advantage for the district in the agreement.

Among the terms spelled out in the memorandum is a discount for the district on using facilities at the sanctuary.

For 25 years the district is entitled to a 50% discounted rate for using the MISD Discovery Center. For seven years after it opens, the district will pay the lower of $3.50 per child or rates charged by the city to other local districts for services rendered.

The district will also get a big fancy sign with its name on it at the center.

McAllen ISD administrators have repeatedly described the project as a way to funnel students toward higher education and boost STEM education.

An interlocal cooperation contract spells out more explicitly how students will benefit from programs at the Discovery Center.

That contract runs from this month to the end of May 2022.

It contains fee limits for various programs and describes the sort of environmental education programs students will engage in at the center, among them courses titled “Habitats, Adaptations & Life Cycles,” “Connections in the Ecosystem,” “Save the Biome!” and “Aquatic Field Science Day.”

Documents related to those programs are largely similar, spelling out schedules for the visits, lunch plans and the required number of chaperones the district has to provide.

The agreement limits the rate for the programs at $7 per student, with a set payment cap. Those caps range from $2,520 to $11,900.

Trustees did not discuss the project Monday and approved the updated agreement unanimously.