SAN ANTONIO -- In a world of technology, J.T. Brackenridge Elementary is a campus powered by pencils and paper.

"We do a great job with what we have, but it would be nice to be set up for the technology that we know our students have access to and will have access to as they get older," Principal Jennifer Maestas said.

Principal Maestas noted that many of the students don’t have access to technology at home, so it is critical to expose the children to the tools they need at school.

“We're sort of the community oasis. If they don't have it at home, we want them to have it here at school because we want them to be competitive in the marketplace,” Principal Maestas said. “We don't have smartboards right now. We don't have the structure for student desktops. We don't have all the infrastructure for projection screens.”

Maestas added that many of the classrooms are small and cramped, making it hard to imagine how they would accommodate new digital technology in such small spaces.

To make more room for learning, students store belongings in open shelves in the hallways, so lockers would be another welcome addition.

Maestas said that the infrastructure in the 40-year-old building is outdated, leaky, and prone to failure.

Chillers that are part of the school’s ventilation system are about 20 years old and, she said, when they fail, it is difficult to get repairs.

“Sometimes the parts have to be manufactured and they don't make those parts anymore. So we are really having to kind of fix things on the fly and pretty frequently,” Principal Maestas said.

The building also has no elevator and the lift for wheelchairs is so old that it is subject to frequent outages.

J.T. Brackenridge is one of 13 schools with serious maintenance issues, according to a blue-ribbon citizens committee that has studied the issue and come up with a $450 million plan to fix the most pressing problems.

In addition to brick and mortar repairs and upgrades district-wide, a second proposal would increase the district's tax rate by 13 cents to bring in more money for daily operations and a state match that would double the money.

"There's no better economic generator than an educated workforce and that's what we're trying to strive for," said Mario Barrera, who co-chairs the committee

Supporters of the proposals say homeowners with an over-65 homestead exemption would see no increase in their taxes.

For everyone else, the district has added a tax impact calculator to its website to help property owners figure out how the proposal would impact their tax bill.

Early voting runs from October 24 to November 4.

District residents can learn more about the proposals by reading a newsletter mailed to homeowners this week.

There’s also a website with additional background information: