Build New, Close, Renovate: Community Teams' Facility Options Presented to Board Members
Build New, Close, Renovate: Community Teams’ Facility Options Presented to Board Members
Results of months of community members’ collaboration provides direction to board members’ facility discussions planned for June 4 and beyond
Community Relations Communications Officer Ashley Thomas presents the facility options prepared by two community teams at the noon board meeting on May 23, 2019.
If Wichita Falls were to consolidate its three high schools into two new buildings, a community team determined that one of the new high schools could be built near the Career Education Center and one could be built near the current Hirschi High School.
If the Wichita Falls community decided to opt for just one new high school to serve the entire community, it could be built near the Career Education Center.
These options and more for WFISD facilities were presented to board members at a May 23, 2019, noon board meeting. The report was originally scheduled for the regular Monday May 20 board meeting, which was postponed due to dire weather warnings.
Two community teams – one focusing on secondary buildings, one focused on elementary buildings – have been studying WFISD’s demographics and facility studies for months to act on a request by board members: Provide options for building new, renovating or closing facilities.
For decades, WFISD has spent large sums of money maintaining old buildings and keeping small schools open, despite the expense. Now, to save money and provide the community with up-to-date facilities, WFISD administrators are tackling the big decisions necessary to eventually fund a “newer and fewer” district plan for its buildings.
Board members will be busy this summer using the committees’ input as they formulate a master plan for the district and a bond proposal for a November election that will launch the plan.
Communications Officer Ashley Thomas presented the committees’ reports, since committee leader Lizzy Asbury was unavailable to attend the Thursday meeting due to the changed date.
At the elementary level, the elementary-level committee drew out one option that would ultimately close seven schools.
- Close Farris and Brook Village (two preK facilities) and send those students to their neighborhood schools.
- An option within this option: Close Haynes Northwest Academy and relocate its students to Burgess, or combine Haynes and Burgess at Kirby, then use Burgess as a preK campus.
- Another elementary option: Close Jefferson, then add capacity to West and Cunningham, or close Jefferson and use McNiel for Jefferson students and special programs or use a portion of the campus for preK. Then, build a replacement school for Jefferson.
- Another elementary option: Close Lamar, then relocate Lamar students to Booker T. Washington, then renovate or add capacity to Booker T. Washington to accommodate additional students.
- Another elementary option was to close Franklin, Crockett and Zundy, then either build two new schools (possibly on the Sam Houston site) or use Barwise as a replacement campus, or build a new campus.
In all, this first elementary option would close Farris, Brook Village, Jefferson, Lamar, Franklin, Crockett and Zundy.
In Elementary Option #2, WFISD would continue to use its Scotland Park, Southern Hills and West Foundation campuses. Then WFISD would build nine new elementary schools and close the rest.
Secondary Options – One High School Model
At the secondary level, the secondary-level committee proposed a one new high school option, locating the school near the Career Education Center.
In this option, the District would operate three middle schools at each of the current high school sites. One middle school would be located at the current Rider High School site; one middle school would be built at the current Hirschi High School site; one middle school would be located at the current Wichita Falls High School site.
Each school would be renovated or built as a replacement for the current schools located at each site.
This plan would set apart Barwise, McNiel, and Kirby for other purposes.
Secondary Options – Two High School Model
For the two new high school model, committee members proposed locating one new high school at the Career Education Center and locating one new high school near Hirschi, which would be renovated or rebuilt.
This plan would include operating four middle schools.
- Kirby would be repurposed and capacity added to it to continue to serve middle school students.
- Wichita Falls High School would be replaced with a new building to serve middle school students.
- Rider High School would be renovated to serve middle school students.
- Barwise Middle School would be renovated to house middle school students.
- This would set McNiel apart so that it would be available for other purposes.
Board members asked for copies of the options and any other options that had surfaced during committee work. There is a detailed report of 40 to 50 thoughts available that she would supply, said Ms. Thomas.
Board members clarified that the committees’ work was not to produce recommendations but to present options that the team of trustees could turn into a plan.
Board members will start a conversation about the committees’ findings in a meeting scheduled for June 4 at 6 p.m.
Board members Katherine McGregor and Bob Payton asked for a general framework of costs to accompany the options.
Board President Elizabeth Yeager stressed that the board had two jobs ahead: One, to develop a long-range plan that will unfold for the next 20 to 50 years. “The bond might be the first step,” she said. “The plan is a separate task; the bond is the financial side.” The public wants to know where any changes will fit into the larger puzzle, she said.
“I agree they can be two different things,” said Mrs. McGregor. “But just creating a long-range plan wish list over 20 to 70 years – we’ve got to have numbers attached to it.”
“We know costs,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt. “There are a lot of decisions to be made here before we add dollars.”
Mr. Payton recommended doing some polling to determine the amount the community would be willing to pay.
Mr. Kuhrt said he wants to create an awesome plan that will give the community a vision for the excitement that can be created with newer and fewer buildings. “Once established, then we figure out how we pay for it,” he said. “They might see the vision and say, we can afford that.”
Mrs. McGregor said she felt it would be difficult to make elementary decisions apart from secondary decisions. “We have to have the whole picture,” she said. Her goal, she said, is to craft a plan that is attainable. “I want us to make the change,” she said.
In a 5-0 vote, board members approved the Consent Agenda, which included:
- Financial reports as of March 31, 2019
- RFP #19-10 for Security Monitoring Services
- Lunch Price Increase for School Year 2019-2020
- Investment Policy, Annual Investment Report, Investment Brokers and Investment Officer Training Providers
Travel Expense Report
Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod presented a report on travel expenses throughout the campuses and among the district’s programs.
As it has turned out, departments have budgeted less this year; campuses budgeted more, though he said he had expected campus travel costs to decline.
Staff members in department head roles are the ones who determine how travel dollars are spent, he said.
“I give them a total dollar amount. They divide it up for supplies and travel,” he said.
Board members had asked for the travel summary as they search for new ways to cut costs and fund the hiring of three new counselors in the middle schools.