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WISD faces future massive growth

Bond issue proposed for May vote; no future second high school for now

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Construction takes place at Max H. Simpson Elementary School in 2019 prior to the new campus’ opening. Waxahachie ISD recommends two new elementary schools, renovations to other elementary schools and expansions to secondary campuses in the next two years.

Waxahachie Independent School District is poised for massive growth in the coming decade, and the district is bracing for it. A bond referendum will likely be placed before district voters for the first time in three years to address the expansion.

District assistant superintendent for finance Ryan Kahlden recommended a $127 million bond to be placed before voters in May, which Kahlden said would result in no tax increase to property owners. Included in the proposed bond are two new elementary schools, renovations to other elementary schools and expansions to secondary cmpuses.

Kahlden said a second high school wouldn’t come up until the 2023 time frame, likely under a separate bond issue request.

Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said during a WISD board workshop earlier this month that a public meeting will be held to receive feedback from the public on the district growth plan. A proposal for a bond issue will be considered at the Feb. 8 school board meeting, and if approved, the bond will be put before voters in the May 1 school election.

Demographer Trent Smith presented to the board of trustees the fall enrollment report for the fall semester of 2020.  The biggest number to keep in mind is the almost 20,000 future development lots that will be coming online in the next few years, topped by only the Northwest and Forney school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

Smith said he expects 800 home closings within WISD boundaries in 2021, which would be a record. Most of those closings today are happening in the attendance boundaries of Simpson and Felty elementary schools, with a number also happening in the Clift Elementary zone southeast of the city proper.

In high school, the largest class is the freshman class, which Smith said is typical of most high schools because of students who don’t advance because of not gaining enough credits, whom Smith called “freshmores.”

However, the next-largest class is WHS’ sophomore class, with 836 students. Smith suggested that through the COVID-19 pandemic, more freshmen were able to succeed and advance through spring online learning.

Overall, WISD is projected to have 16,525 students by the 2030-2031 school year, with a high school enrollment of 4,850 students. In terms of present-day enrollment, only Allen and the three massive Plano ISD senior high schools are larger.

Smith said the district’s junior highs should be able to handle enrollment until the middle of the decade.

Smith noted a large decline in pre-kindergarten enrollment but an uptick in kindergarten, which bucked the trend across North Texas. Smith said he expects an enrollment surge in the fall as COVID-19 vaccines take effect.

Kahlden’s proposal includes two new elementary schools to open in 2022 and 2023, renovations to WHS and Coleman Junior High as well as renovations to older elementary campuses, a new transportation facility, and purchase of land for future school sites.

Superintendent Cain said that in the event the district decides that a second high school is necessary, it would start at the ninth-grade level. If the determination is made that a second high school should start with grades 9-10, an attendance boundary would be established and ninth-graders would attend WHS for one year with the knowledge they would be establishing a new tradition.

Board vice president Clay Schoolfield said he hates to see Waxahachie potentially become a multiple-high-school town, but growth patterns may soon dictate it.

“When you walk out of the door, your emotions don’t mean anything because our community is not the same,” Schoolfield said. “We can be a slave to the growth and let it drag us down the road, or we can try to get out in front of it and do it in a cost-effective, productive manner.”