WISD bond vote already underway

$127M referendum addresses projected massive growth in enrollment

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
This map shows the elementary attendance zones in Waxahachie ISD and active and future new subdivisions. The district proposes to build two new elementaries to accommodate the growth as part of the $127 million bond referendum that will go before voters May 1.

Next Saturday, May 1, Waxahachie Independent School District voters will go to the polls to decide a referendum that, if approved, would begin to channel the expected tsunami of growth bearing down upon the district.

In February, the WISD board of trustees unanimously referred a $127 million bond issue to voters, as recommended by WISD chief financial officer Ryan Kahlden. Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said at the time that a voter-approved bond issue would 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.”

Early voting got underway on Monday and will continue through Tuesday, April 27. Information on the proposed bond is available on the Waxahachie ISD website at https://www.wisd.org/apps/pages/Bond2021 .

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

• Two new elementary schools to open in August 2022, one on land near the new Waxahachie High School and one on land in the Saddlebrook neighborhood;

• Renovations to the Coleman Junior High building (which formerly housed WHS in grades 10-12 before the new high school opened in 2018) to become a second comprehensive 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.

District officials say constructing a new high school facility was not considered for this bond, as the cost would require a tax increase.

Superintendent Cain had previously stated that any second high school would open at the ninth-grade level. If the determination is made that a second high school should start with grades 9-10, Cain said, 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.

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.”

In January, demographer Trent Smith told the board that WISD is projected to have 16,525 students by the 2030-2031 school year, with a high school enrollment of 4,850 students.

Smith said the driver of projected growth within WISD boundaries 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.

 “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.”

Also included in the bond is a list of deferred maintenance needs for campuses totaling more than $5.8 million. 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.