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WISD places $127M bond on May 1 ballot

Proposal includes converting Coleman building into 1,200-student high school

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Coleman Junior High, which formerly housed Waxahachie High School before the new high school opened in 2018, would be converted into a second comprehensive high school with a capacity of 1,200 students if voters approve a $127 million bond issue on the May 1 ballot.

The Waxahachie Independent School District board of trustees unanimously referred a $127 million bond issue to voters for the May 1 election during Monday night’s regular monthly meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said a voter-approved bond issue will not necessitate a property tax increase.

“Our student enrollment just continues to grow,” Cain said. “We’ve been told we will have 1,000 extra students next year … When you’re looking at the houses that are selling and the houses that are being proposed, we need to be ready.”

The bond will provide more than 1,500 additional classroom seats to accommodate the district’s fast growth. The proposed projects include:

• Two new elementary schools;

• Renovations to the Coleman building (which formerly held Waxahachie High School in grades 10-12) to become a new high school with a capacity of 1,200 students, making it a Class 4A high school;

• Expansion of the Hancock building to house Coleman Junior High;

• Expansion of WHS to house high school programs that are currently housed at Coleman;

• Expansion of the district’s current transportation facility;

• Renovations at the four oldest elementary campuses (Northside, Shackelford, Dunaway and Wilemon);

• Purchase of land for future school sites; and

• Large maintenance items for campuses throughout the district.

In a series of forums leading up to the board vote, the board, school staff and members of the community discussed the district’s building needs as enrollment continues to increase. Cain said the proposal has changed several times as new information has been received.

“I know we’ve spent substantial time on this as a group,” board president Dusty Autrey said. “This $127 million bond, in my opinion, there’s not one thing on here that is a luxury. It’s absolute need moving forward. We’re not asking for anything that we absolutely did not need yesterday.”

Information on the proposed bond is available on the Waxahachie ISD website at https://www.wisd.org/apps/pages/Bond2021 .

“I don’t take it lightly calling for a bond,” board vice president Clay Schoolfield said. “It’s money that has to be paid back, and as a taxpayer I’m one of the ones who have to pay it back. But if you drive down Ferris Avenue today and look at the rooftops going in, there’s a lot of changes here and there’s no room. Those are the people that will be funding this as they move in. It is what it is, and we will try to be as frugal and manage our fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer to the best of our ability.”

In a related item, the board approved a list of deferred maintenance needs for campuses totaling more than $5.8 million, which would be included in the bond if approved by voters. The items include roofing repairs as well as lighting retrofits/upgrades and HVAC unit and control replacements, and the work would be done in the summer months while students are on vacation.

District chief financial officer Ryan Kahlden said if the bond fails to pass, the district’s fund balance would be used to pay for the maintenance.

Other items

• The board approved the hiring of two teachers and security personnel and made a change to a single position within the special populations department which was discussed with the board in closed session, as well as a change in salary structure for change in assignment.

• Trustees watched a video on the numerous career and technical education programs that the district offers. The district’s CTE teachers were recognized by the board.

• The WHS girls’ cross-country state qualifiers, Clift Elementary lead custodian Paula Burrows, and Turner Pre-K Academy teacher Ami Stracener were also recognized.

 • A public hearing was held on the school district’s 2019-2020 Texas Academic Performance Report. Among the highlights, the district received a “needs assistance” rating in the area of special education, but the district is doing well on most other measures.

• Deputy superintendent Lee Auvenshine reviewed a proposed Texas Association of School Board policy update that will affect WISD local policies.

• The board reviewed a proposed easement along Northgate Drive to allow the city of Waxahachie to expand the thoroughfare to three lanes.

• The approved consent agenda items included previous minutes, acceptance of various reports, budget amendments, matters involving the May 1 election, contracts totaling $7,000 with Pyro Shows of Texas to provide fireworks shows in honor of Global High School graduates and Waxahachie High School graduates, and a memorandum of understanding with Mansfield ISD to allow WISD employees the opportunity to undergo examinations for Texas Commercial Driver’s Licenses for the operation of school buses.

• One consent agenda item, a resolution requesting Gov. Greg Abbott to include public school personnel in the official expert vaccine allotment panel’s definition of frontline workers, was pulled and approved separately.

• The board voted to nominate former Waxahachie mayor and councilmember Kevin Strength for consideration to complete an unexpired term on the Ellis County Appraisal Board.