Dirt finally moved one shovel at a time on the Waxahachie High School campus during the long-awaited groundbreaking of the new Ron Appleton Agriscience Facility on Friday.

Waxahachie ISD Board President Dustry Autrey welcomed those in attendance and told the story behind the establishment of the future agriscience facility.

“Three years ago when Mr. [Floyd] Bates left the board of trustees, he walked up and told me, ‘Mr. Autrey, make sure that agriscience facility gets built.’ And every time I see him in town, he would remind me,” Autrey said.

Five years ago, Autrey and another individual requested the board of trustees to set aside $1 million for the renovation of the two Waxahachie ag barns on Howard Road or to construct a new facility. The two barns that both equate to approximately 15,000 square feet belong to the City of Waxahachie, and it was decided a new facility would be beneficial.

Former board members that sat aside the funds included board president Mark Price, vice president Floyd Bates, Wess Win, Dr. Joe Langley, Kim Kriegel, Evelyn Coleman and Gary Fox.

Autrey explained funds from the former school board along with profits from the sale of land located north of U.S. Highway 77 and leftover funds from the 2016 bond would be utilized to construct the building.

The establishment of the agriculture and animal science facility was unanimously approved by trustees in 2015, following the recommendation by board member Floyd Bates.

On Friday, current Waxahachie FFA advisor Jeanette Middleton said, “It’s been a long time coming for this facility, and we are really excited for the kids and the opportunities with this being right next to the school. We are super pumped and excited to see what the future holds for us.”

Middleton added that more than 400 students are involved in agriculture and ag-science programs and courses and more than 115 FFA students show animals on a regular basis.

WISD interim superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain shared before the groundbreaking that, “FFA is one of the more prominent student organizations.”

WHS FFA chapter president Landry Bosher spoke on behalf of her peers and thanked the individuals who played a role in making the ag facility a reality.

“As we all know the standards of our current ag facility do not represent the standards of safety we have for our students,” Bosher said. “Of course I’d like to thank all the students, teachers, school board members and all the supportive parents for making this ag facility come true. So, thank you for your endless support.”

After Appleton himself removed his hard hat and placed his shovel back in the dirt, he expressed, “That has been a long time in a million."

Appleton joined WISD in 1966 as an agriculture teacher and taught for 19 years. He then served in administration at WHS for the following 20 years and spent 12 more in district administration.

He explained back in rural Waxahachie, the ag program would conduct home visits and a community barn concept was not in the picture.

“This facility is going to give thousands and thousands of kids the opportunity from 40 to 50 years from now to experience what kids 50 years ago were not able to do," Appleton emphasized.

“It’s a great honor all of this," Appleton added.

The agriscience facility will be located on nine acres of land northeast of the WHS campus. The area is bordered by U.S. Highway 287 Bypass and adjacent farmland.

The Nay Company was hired as the design-build contractor for the $4,888,886 project. Doug Pate with the Nay Company detailed the layout of the building along with its features.

The total square footage is 42,763 with an additional 10,000 square feet of covered porches. The 10,000 square feet area that is covered includes gender-specific restrooms, wash racks, a classroom with overhead door, an office for teachers, closed in arena and concession area.

The facility is structured with a main covered area and cattle barn that can fit 10 cattle pins. Two sections each less than 10,000 square feet are attached to each side of the main structure. One will serve as a swine barn with room for about 100 pins, and the opposite end will include space for 50 sheep and goat.

The cattle barn is covered with the sides open to the natural environment.

The students will start with about 75 swine, 10 cattle and 36 sheep and goats.

“There is room for expansion in the barns, they can grow in the space and add more pins,” Pate said.

A parking lot with 24 spaces will be constructed on the north main entrance. Spots will be utilized for visitors, staff and afterschool parking. Trailer parking will be available on each side of the goat/sheep and swine barn.

“All of the buildings have heat except for the cattle with high output HLVS fans," Pate noted.

The building will be constructed with a double-wide insulated steel panel and will be metal-lined on the interior and exterior. The facility will be equipped with LED light fixtures as well as hot and cold water.

“It could be air conditioned if someone wanted to put an air conditioner in it,” Pate added.

The plan is to begin construction the beginning of April and is set on a 12-month contract to complete the project.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news  | 469-517-1450