Residents will soon know if the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees plans to call for a May bond election to construct a new elementary school in the North Grove subdivision.
The decision to at least entertain a motion next Monday, Feb. 12 came after roughly 40 minutes of discussion Monday, Feb. 5 inside a conference room in the Waxahchie ISD Administration Building.
During the workshop, Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn identified the primary concern for growth within the district is at the elementary level, noting that area is also the most difficult to project from year to year. He added the district is projected to grow roughly three percent over each of the next several years and could be over functional capacity at the elementary level as early as the 2021-22 school year.
Clyde Melick, Waxahachie ISD Assistant Superintendent of Facilities, backed the numbers on expected growth and added that the average age of new residents is about 32 years old, which he explained meant they have children at the elementary level or younger.
Both Glenn and Melick emphasized the need for the trustees to focus on finding a solution — either immediate or long-term — to the growth in student enrollment at the elementary level.
Waxahachie ISD Board President James Villarreal informed the trustees that they would need to decide on any potential bond at the next meeting, Monday. Feb. 12.
“If you don’t [call for an election] this May, you could be OK. But, if you don’t go this May, you definitely have to go next May,” Villarreal said.
The build-out process to construct a new elementary school is around two years. If a bond is passed in May to build an elementary school in the North Grove subdivision the building would open in time for the 2020-21 school year.
The North Grove subdivision is a John Houston development.
The school would be roughly the same size as Felty Elementary, featuring around 40 classrooms with a maximum capacity of 650 and functional capacity around 553, Glenn explained.
Trustee Clay Schoolfield stated the district needs a standard set of blueprints for elementary schools so that the trustees are not forking out roughly $2.2 million for conceptual designs every time a new facility is needed. Dunaway and Shackleford Elementary are examples of the idea driven by Schoolfield.
The trustees mostly agreed, adding that they can improve and cut costs as they reuse the plans on each new school.
Lee Auvenshine, WISD Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services, also briefed the trustees on the results of a voluntary poll as to why the 2017 bond proposal failed. About 1,100 community members responded to the questionnaire.
According to Auvenshine, 52.5 percent of those polled said they would support a bond for a new elementary school within the next year. The study also found 47 percent felt the 2017 bond failed because of a fear of a possible tax increase while 16 percent thought there was a lack of trust between the community and Waxahachie ISD.
Among the five goals outlined in the WISD Engage2Learn strategy is that the district will "develop and maintain safe, innovative and attractive facilities that will support optimal learning, equitable growth, and sustainable development." This goal, which is No. 2 on the five-goal outline, was the focus of Monday's workshop. More specifically, the trustees focused on goal 2.1: to define an equitable, attractive and sustainable facility plan for each existing and future campuses to accommodate growth and foster pride.
In short, the trustees are working to find a solution that will allow the district to continue its roughly three-percent growth without overcrowding any existing school.
Glenn also noted he wanted the board to be able to work "with real numbers." He then stated the revised expenditures for the fiscal year are $77.4 million instead of $77.35 million listed in the 2017 audit. Glenn added he foresees that number increasing next year, as well, and noted the district has $23.8 million in its general fund.
Following the first WISD STEM fair held Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy, parents of 112 students said they intend to apply for their children to attend Wilemon Elementary next school year. Glenn credited the success of the fair. He also applauded the work of Shelle Blaylock, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Academics, and her team for organizing the event and passed along kudos to all of the volunteers who attended.
The district intends to rezone later this spring, and Wilemon's zone will encompass approximately 300 students. The school has a functional capacity of around 380 students, meaning 80 spots will be left open for families not zoned to Wilemon to apply.
The trustees looked at a basic, potential floor plan and design for the new agricultural barn that will be constructed on the new high school campus. The facility would feature pens for goats, lambs, swine, and cattle, as well as a show arena.
Just before the executive session, Schoolfield asked to circle back around to discuss the agricultural facility, but Villarreal and Glenn stated those questions could be cleared up at a later time.
The position of director of human resources, which was posted to the district’s website Jan. 9, was unanimously approved by the trustees. The position will assist in Auvenshine’s office with day-to-day operations.
Trustee Matt Authier stated the need for the position came to light after he began to look around at other comparable districts and noticed significantly more personnel in those human resources department than in WISD. Auvenshine stated it is common practice to have one human resource person for every 100 employees. Waxahachie ISD has over 1,200 employees.
“So we are a little thin,” Auvenshine humbly admitted. He stated the additional position would allow for others on the administration team to do more for the students and staff of WISD.
“This will be a benefit to our students because it will be a benefit to our employees. It will help us keep those good employees,” added Auvenshine in response to multiple questions from trustee Gary Fox.
Schoolfield strongly recommended the district hire someone for the position with extensive human resources experience. “Because if you look at the back of this packet, we are about to blow smooth up,” said Schoolfield, referring to the growth the district is expected to experience.
Auvenshine stated he plans to have a recommended hire for the board by March 19.
The trustees convened into executive session for just over two hours before returning to open session at 9:31 p.m. They took no action.