Waxahachie ISD superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn conducted a tour of the Waxahachie High School facility Tuesday evening for a group of Global High parents, students and faculty members.
The tour was arranged to provide the Global High community the opportunities available at the WHS facilities under the proposal submitted by the district’s Long Range Planning Committee in December.
The committee proposed the WISD Board of Trustees consider calling for a $125 million bond to build a new high school. If approved by voters, once the new high school opened, the plan called for Waxahachie Global High to move into a portion of the existing WHS facility on N. Highway 77. The remaining portion of the facility will be used for administrative offices for the district. Additionally, the Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy facility on Indian Drive will be converted into a new junior high to accommodate district growth needs, while the Wilemon campus, currently being used by Global High, will be converted to an elementary school.
During a Global High PTO meeting held Feb. 3, Glenn informed parents that, should the board call for a referendum and voters approve the bond, Global will not be forced to move into the WHS facility.
“I believe the WHS facility provides a lot of advantages and amenities for Global that the Wilemon building doesn’t have,” Glenn said during the Feb. 3 meeting. “I can assure you, as long as I am superintendent of WISD, Global High will remain a flagship program for WISD and I’m going to do everything I can to enhance the success of our nationally recognized Early College High School/STEM Academy. If the faculty, parents and students want to stay at Wilemon, that’s OK. If they want to move to the current ninth grade academy, that’s an option as well. But I would like for everyone to take at look at the WHS facility and see all the possibilities that building could provide for the great work the faculty and staff are doing at Global.”
Waxahachie Global High opened its doors in the fall of 2007 to its first freshman class. By state charter, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy is limited to approximately 100 students per grade. Class sizes are kept small with courses focusing on project based learning methods. In 2009, the school received its charter to become one of seven public Early College High Schools in the state of Texas, and one of approximately 50 in the nation. With Navarro College and the University of Texas-Tyler serving as the school’s higher education partner, students, including eligible freshmen, are allowed to take advanced dual-credit courses that count for both high school and college credit.
With a heavy focus on academics, primarily in the STEM area, the school has no UIL athletic teams.
Since the school’s first graduating class in 2011, more than half the members of each graduating class have received their associate’s degree prior to their high school diploma. In May, 78 members of the Global Class of 2015 are scheduled to receive associate’s degrees.
In addition to the school being recognized as one of the top academic high schools in the nation, its principal, Don Snook, has been recognized as one of the top principals in the nation. In late 2014, Global Engineering teacher April Moon received national recognition for her work in education.
During Tuesday’s tour, Glenn began at the entryway to WHS, explaining the vision should Global move to the facility.
“The entire front of the building is going to receive a facelift,” Glenn said. “Here at the entry way, we are looking at extending this wall out flush to the corner of where the offices end over there to the right and making it a two-story, glass entryway with an open space — very similar to the Commons Area at Wilemon.”
He added the renovation would include replacing the tile flooring with a hardwood surface in the entryway.
“I picture it being open and very inviting,” he said, adding they would also replace all the green paint and tile with Global High blue colors.
Walking to the culinary arts room located near the front of the building, Glenn said it would be easy to convert this room into a coffee bar for students and faculty.
“I could see this becoming one of the most popular rooms in the building,” he said.
In the cafeteria, Glenn said the larger facility would allow the school to accommodate more students during lunch period, reducing the amount of lunch periods needed. Currently, the Wilemon facility has a very small cafeteria, which requires multiple lunch periods to accommodate the entire school.
“I really, really like that,” Snook said, as he looked around at the multi-level dining room with an outdoor courtyard dining area.
“Another thing to keep in mind is this facility allows us the opportunity to contract with an outside vendor like Chick-fil-A or Subway where students could purchase their lunch. We still have to provide a full lunch for students receiving the free or reduced lunch plan through our nutrition services, but it would be easy to have a vendor here that would provide a choice for students on what they wanted to eat.”
During a tour of the greenhouse facility that is currently part of the WHS Career and Technology Education Center (CTE), which would be relocated to the new high school, Glenn said this would be a wonderful opportunity to students taking life sciences. Working in conjunction with the Ellis County Master Gardeners Association, Glenn said he envisions the greenhouse would provide multiple opportunities for learning and community service.
Viewing one of the CTE workshops, Glenn said this space could be a testing facility for any number of Global projects, from Robotics to engineering to physics.
“Right now at Wilemon, you all have told me there is a lack of space, especially when it comes to testing projects,” Glenn said. “Well, here you go. I can see you all using this room test any number of projects.”
Walking through the classroom portion of the building, Glenn said he wants the faculty to have primary input on the renovation project to design the classroom according to each department’s project based learning needs.
“One of the things that I see is taking two classrooms and removing the wall between them,” he said. “That way each teacher can have plenty of room for both lectures and lab, workspace.”
The tour also included a stop in the WHS library.
“I know Global has never had a school library,” Glenn said. “Well, if you make the move, all this is yours. I know these days everything is online and you have two computer labs over there. But there is still a need for books and I like the fact that Global students should be able to check out a book.”
There was also a stop in the WHS Little Theatre.
“Now, what you use this space for is entirely up to y’all,” Glenn said. “But I could honestly see (Global history teacher Bill) Covington giving his lectures down here on stage with his students sitting in audience.”
“We could also use this room when we have dignitaries visit,” Snook said. “Especially lately as lots of school districts have been visiting our campus wanting to duplicate what we have for their district.”
“Absolutely,” Glenn agreed.
“What about the Fine Arts Center?” one of the parents asked.
“We definitely want the Fine Arts Center,” Snook said.
“What is the Fine Arts Center?” another parent asked.
“Come on, let me show you,” Glenn said, leading the group through the facility as the WHS band was setting up for a concert.
In the hallway outside the auditorium, Glenn told the Global group the facility has a seating capacity of around 1,000, which would make it ideal to hold award ceremonies for the school, or, “if Mr. Snook wanted to hold a school wide assembly, this would allow the entire student body to gather at the same time.”
During the tour, the question was asked if the assistant principal position would be restored for Global.
“That’s something that Mr. Snook and I have been having meetings on and we will continue to address that need,” Glenn said. “But the short answer to your question, yes, if Global moves to this facility, it will absolutely need an assistant principal and we would have to bring that position.”
When asked about other staff positions, Glenn said the district’s primary focus for Global is faculty to continue its student-to-teacher ration and project based learning initiatives that makes Global so successful.
“Last week you said if we wanted, we could stay at the Wilemon campus. If we choose to do that, will there be any money to expand that campus?” one of the parents asked.
“If Global wants to stay at Wilemon, they can stay at Wilemon,” Glenn said. “But if the board calls for the bond and the voters pass it, once the new high school is build we’re going to spending money to convert this facility into a new campus. It can be for Global High, or we can spend that money to convert it into a junior high facility. We’re also going to have to spend money across the street to convert the ninth grade academy into an elementary school under that scenario. A lot of us, I know I certainly do, feel that this facility provides the best opportunity for Global moving forward. To answer your question, if Global stays at Wilemon, no, I don’t envision any funds for expansion of that campus in the near future because of all the other things we need to accomplish across the district.”
In response to questions from the group, Glenn said if Global moves, the signage in front of the school would be replaced with Waxahachie Global High. He said he would also petition the city of Waxahachie to rename Indian Drive with a name more appropriate to Global, such as Global Drive, for example.
He stated Lumpkins Stadium would still be used for WHS athletics. WHS teams would have practice facilities at the new campus and would be bussed to games at Lumpkins, much like what Midlothian ISD does for its multi-purpose stadium.
The Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees is scheduled to make a decision this month on whether or not to call for a bond referendum on the Long Range Planning Committee recommendations.