A majority of Waxahachie Independent School District’s Long Range Planning Committee members (96 percent) voted in favor of proposing a $125 million bond referendum in spring for a new high school at Monday’s school board meeting.
This was one of five recommendations voted on during the final LRPC meeting Thursday night at Waxahachie High School. Out of 60 members, 57 voted. By press time Thursday and the time the meeting was adjourned, three members had yet to vote. Though an unofficial count, 51 members voted yes to all five recommendations. Any ballot box left blank was voted as a no.
“All day long I was preparing what I was going to tell you guys if the vote came back and we were not successful on any part of the resolution,” Superintendent Jeremy Glenn said. “Having coached t-ball, and having coached high school sports in the past, I think it’s important that you win with humility and you lose with integrity. With that said, I’m excited to tell you that the vote in this room tonight is 96 percent for building a new high school. That’s incredible.”
The five recommendations are as follows:
• To promote and enhance early childhood development by expanding the current pre-kindergarten program from a half-day for eligible students to a full-day pre-kindergarten program for eligible students, focusing on economically disadvantaged children, as early as next year. Currently, the district offers a half-day pre-k program.
• To explore the creation of magnet schools, be it a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) campus, or some other form of a magnet school as facilities allow. This includes the adoption of a two-way dual language program at at least two elementary level campuses.
• To encourage the board to work with administration and the School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) to explore the creation of either a police department or a security resource officer on every campus through a partnership with the Waxahachie Police Department. This also includes the possibility of exploring the idea of drug testing for all students engaged in extracurricular activities.
“Our goal needs to be to get those kids out, and I want something with some teeth and I want our kids to know we’re actively monitoring each and every one of them and they won’t know when we’re going to come in and test them,” Glenn said during the last committee meeting. “I want to give them that reason to say I’m not going to touch the stuff because I’m not going to risk getting kicked off the basketball team or the baseball team or out of FFA.”
This vote came in at the lowest approval of 92 percent.
• To call for a $125 million bond to support the construction of a new high school and all of the facilities that would go into the new high school, construction of additions and repairs to the existing high school, Finley Junior High School, the Wilemon education center and the Turner education center. Those funds would enable the district to have a new high school for ninth through 12th grade, and enable the district to relocate Global High School to the current Waxahachie High School and allow growth without changing the project-based learning atmosphere and curriculum.
“Moving into that building allows Global kids more opportunities, if we want to stay exactly the same,” Glenn also said at the last meeting. “If we decide we want to grow to 500 or 600 kids, it allows for that. Again, it gives parents a choice. I do think a piece of this; we’re going to give kids more opportunities that they have necessarily not had at Global.”
He also said being able to have the space to possibly add extracurricular activities may make the difference between whether students in junior high decide they want to go to Global. Currently, Global students have a robotics club, bowling, club volleyball and a few other activities, but Glenn said he’d like to see those activities expand and be capable of competing on a University Interscholastic League level in academics as well.
This will allow the possibility of opening another middle school, where the current Ninth Grade Academy exists, as well as elementary schools in the Global location and Turner, for nine elementary campuses total.
• To urge the board to use existing funds to acquire land for the new high school during the bond election and to not use bond funds to make the purchase. To meet state requirements for public education facilities, the cost is about $100 million for a new high school campus, including a land purchase, according to a previous Daily Light article. High school campuses must be built on a minimum of 100 acres, according to state regulations. Currently, the district owns 125 acres near the Magnablend facility (former site of the Superconducting Super Collider site) deeded to the district by the federal government when the SSC project was defunded by Congress. It also owns 50 acres on North Highway 77 near the new Life School facility.
Before committee members casted their ballots, Glenn reminded the group of importance of the meetings held once a week since September.
“It’s hard to believe we started right here back in this room in September, and I know we have thrown a lot of information out to you guys very fast, and we’re asking you to look at the big picture and trust our administration, our school board and our community to take that big picture idea, and those concepts and make them work for the benefit of our kids,” Glenn said. “When I think about what we’re doing tonight, all week, all I could think about was what a huge step this is and how it’s a big deal. It is a big deal. But, at the end of the day, no matter what happens in this room tonight, nobody’s going to grab a shovel tomorrow morning and building a new high school. It’s still a process; we still have to go through our school board and the information study. We’re going to have to go to our community, because our community is going to have to vote on whatever we put forth. They will decide whether we get a new high school or not. After that vote, that’s when the shovels come out and that’s when we start pushing dirt.”
Members also heard from three speakers, each not on the committee, but each providing a voice for the past, present and future of WISD. The first spoke about how his father and mother each only had an fifth and sixth grade education, and encouraged him to finish high school. The speaker said if it weren’t for the teachers WISD had that truly helped and cared for him along the way, he wouldn’t have made it. The third, an educator who served 40 years within the district, spoke of the importance of moving forward and growing to give a better, more enriched life to students. But the second was Caleb Reynolds, a Northside Elementary fifth grader and son of the WHS fine arts director Andy Reynolds. Caleb will be one of the first freshmen to go through the new high school, if the referendum passes.
“My dad has told me how much time all of you have given to learn about the schools and the students’ needs here at Waxahachie ISD,” Caleb said. “I wanted to come tonight to tell you thank you for taking care of me and my friends who are in elementary school. I am sure that you all know that these changes will make a huge impact on the future. Our world is changing and I am ready to face my future, whatever it is. When I grow up, I want to be a meteorologist. I want to take the right classes in high school, so I can be prepared when I go to college. I know that you are making important decisions that will affect my future and my friends’ futures as well.”
The recommendations will go before the WISD board of trustees at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the WISD Administration Building, which is located at 411 N. Gibson St. If approved, parts of these resolutions may not even take effect until 2018, Glenn said.