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Career Education Center Faces Tight Deadline in Final Phase

Career Education Center Faces Tight Deadline in Final Phase

Ribbon-cutting is 140 days away

 

 

There are 140 days to go before the WFISD Career Education Center hosts a ribbon cutting Aug. 8 and opens its doors for the 2017-2018 school year.

 

The schedule is tight from here on out, said CEC Project Manager David Musch.

 

Along with Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths, Mr. Musch updated WFISD board members on the building’s construction progress during a noon work session March 21 at the Education Center Board Room.

 

Mr. Griffiths told board members that sheetrock had gone up throughout the inside of the building and much of the building had been painted. Things were “moving well, going fast,” he said. The crew was working toward a fully powered building as of April 7, a fully dried-in date of April 14, and furniture deliveries in mid-July, he said.

 

All stakeholders are now meeting weekly to coordinate details in this final building stage, he said. There was no danger that the building would be unfinished when school started, said Mr. Griffiths.

 

The team is working quickly and keeping standards high to meet all deadlines, interjected Mr. Musch. “To be perfectly honest, it’s going to be tight,” he said. “Everybody’s got to work together to get this finished on time.”

 

The construction team is now coordinating its work with the city to understand what is required during this final phase of construction.

 

“We have a good team,” said Mr. Musch. “We know we can do it. We’re going to be working hand-in-hand with you right up until school starts.”

 

Board member Bill Franklin asked for an opportunity to walk through the site before the next scheduled tour, which is in May. “It’s been awhile since we’ve been out there,” he said. The board’s most recent tour of the CEC was in December.

 

Architect Gary Baker told board members that because the schedule is “extremely tight,” he was asking the construction team for options that may cost extra but could buy the District time and accelerate progress. “It would be an advantage to accelerate the schedule to pick up one to two weeks time,” he said.

 

The building is behind schedule because of days lost to rain early in the project.

 

CEC Furniture Delivery

The District asked board members to approve the purchase of CEC furniture from a company called KI for $1,074,982.63.

 

Michelle Wood, Synthia Kirby and Peter Griffiths collaborated with KI on the design and selection of all furniture. KI manufactures its own products and custom-fit rooms throughout the CEC with its chairs, tables and soft seating.

 

“Tables nest, flip up, fold out; chairs are on casters, which is good for floors,” said Mrs. Wood. The goal was to make all furniture moveable and versatile, she said.

 

The team toured several career centers to get furniture ideas, said Ms. Kirby. “All administrators told us, ‘Keep it simple.’ So the furniture in most classrooms and offices is similar. It makes for easy moving. It’s flexible so teachers can use it differently,” she said.

 

The same style of furniture selected for WFISD’s career center is in use in another district and is now six years old. “It looked brand new,” said Ms. Kirby. She is convinced of its quality, she said.

 

The furniture selected for the career center comes with a 15-year guarantee and is designed for students to sit on it in all sorts of ways, said Mrs. Wood. “Students can learn in different positions. They can sit on top of it or on an arm,” she said. Though that would not be her preference, that is the way students of today think and respond, she said.

 

The furniture purchases include rolling white boards that can be rolled up to a small group of students for more team building. The purchases also include soft seating for nooks and crannies throughout the building.

 

In all, the team furnished 123,000 square feet of space, including 20 classrooms. Purchases include seating and tables for banquets that can serve 210; furniture for 5 computer labs, 24 offices, 1 large conference room, 1 bistro, 10 labs, and 5 collaborative soft seating areas.

 

If the purchases are approved, the order will be placed in April, delivered in July and installed during a two-week period, starting around July 17. “Once we have furniture in the building, we have a place to put kids,” said Mrs. Wood.

 

The furniture budget has about $1 million remaining in it, which will fund technology throughout the career center, said Mrs. Wood.

 

2017 Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved budget amendments to the 2016-2017 budget presented by Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod.

 

The February 2017 budget amendment included 13 inter-functional budget transfers at eight schools. It also included the $343,000 charge for board-approved buses.

 

2017-2018 Budget Underway

Mr. Sherrod gave board members a timeline for the creation of the 2017-2018 budget. He listed five key dates:

  • May 9: Present a budget draft at noon work session
  • May 15: Present a final first draft at board meeting
  • June 13: Present a second draft detailing staffing, stipends
  • July 11: Present General Operating budget at work session, along with a budget for Food Service
  • July 17: Present a preliminary budget that will include any changes

 

The Number of Digital Classrooms Continue to Grow

WFISD Director of Technology Shad McGaha reported to board members on the District’s ongoing plans to provide digital devices to classrooms.

 

It all began in Spring 2015 when the District’s Digital Pilot Program initially outfitted 42 classrooms with digital devices (Google Chromebooks and Apple iPads) at a cost of $485,000. The cost included teacher training and was paid by general funds and Title funds.

 

In 2016-2017, the District expanded its digital outreach to provide one device for every student in fifth-grade classes. It also started a 1-to-1 initiative with all sixth-grade students, allowing them to check out a device that they could take home with them and use for the next three years.

 

More than 300 teachers and instructional coaches received training along with the devices at a total cost of $1.2 million.

 

The plan for the 2017-2018 school year: Mr. McGaha plans to outfit all fourth-graders with Chromebooks, at a cost of $450,000. Students in grades 3 on down will use iPads.

 

Chromebooks have a five-year lifespan, so the District will need to begin refreshing its supply in 2020.

 

He reported that the District is also considering entering into 10-year contracts to provide Lit Fiber and Dark Fiber circuits between campuses and the District Technology Department. Of dark fiber, Mr. McGaha said, “Without this piece, the rest doesn’t matter.”

 

In a dark fiber set-up, the district manages its own equipment. The District would expand its network from 78 gigabytes to 870 gigabytes. “It’s a huge deal,” said Mr. McGaha.

 

The build cost is expected to be about $1.9 million, he said. “This buys us eight to 10 years,” said Mr. McGaha. “It will future-proof us as much as possible.”

 

E-rate funding is expected to reduce the cost to the district, usually by 80 percent.

 

These foundational equipment purchases are necessary since the District expects to bring on 700 devices annually to its system. Currently, about 50 percent of elementary students have access to a digital device, not counting all fifth-grade students who already have their own devices and fourth-graders will get theirs next year.

 

The goal is to provide at least 12 digital devices per classroom.

 

Mr. McGaha presented bids from three vendors for lit fiber. They ranged in monthly cost from $23,000 to $46,515. He presented bids from six vendors for dark fiber circuits, which ranged in monthly cost from $8,366 to $41,265. A bid for modulating electronics for dark fiber received one bid from Netsync for $2.7 million. With E-rate funding, that cost would be reduced to $548,202.

 

Personnel Report

Cyndy Kohl, director of human resources, reported that the District has received 21 notices of retirement, 15 professional resignations, and 11 retirements among support staff.

 

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the hiring of two new teachers, one for Kirby Middle School and one for Sheppard Elementary.

 

Ms. Kohl announced that WFISD will host a job fair April 22 from 10 a.m. until noon at the Wichita Falls Country Club. Ms. Kohl urged anyone interested in working for WFISD to attend and meet our principals.