Some of our most treasured tales originated in our schools, the landmark of first loves, academic accomplishments, inspirational teachers and embellished athletic feats.
School Bond Proposition fails
The architecture speaks to us, each corridor enlists affection, even in their depreciating state, and links us to days of yore. These buildings stir a sense of loyalty worthy of a seat at the dinner table, as if human.
The tales, however, transcend the bricks and mortar. Our loyalties can survive change and much-needed progress.
The facilities within the Wichita Falls Independent School District need change, and the city craves progress.
The WFISD’s $125 million bond issue, which goes to the voters beginning with early voting Monday and on election day May 10, would make much-needed progress.
While discussions between the Times Record News editorial board perhaps resemble those within our community, we collectively endorse the May 10 bond issue.
The bond issue, as detailed, is not a perfect solution, but a solution just the same. The timing is crucial, as a considerable amount of bond debt rolls off the books soon, making the $125 million bond feel more like roughly $80 million. One financial expert suggested that if we do not pass this bond now, in May, the next time the city of Wichita Falls could see similar cost-neutral debt would be the year 2027.
The time is now. We cannot afford to keep the current configuration and have any hope of attracting and appropriately paying qualified teachers, much less attracting new businesses to town.
Current estimates put the cost of maintaining the existing buildings is about $1 million a month. That’s a million dollars better spent on teachers, programs, the latest technology and overall safety.
Rider High School is 55 years old; Wichita Falls High School is 89 years old. Old buildings require an almost hemorrhaging amount of maintenance. In an independent study conducted on the district’s facilities, both schools received a “poor” combined score, detailing buildings with a significant number of systems requiring major repair or renovation.
For those with treasured tales to tell, that’s a difficult concept to accept. That’s understandable. We do not always see the flaws through our nostalgia.
The bond would spend nearly $64 million to construct a new facility, replacing Rider and WFHS, in a single location. The location, it seems, draws ire — residing too far away from certain neighborhoods, benefiting one part of town over another.
Location is not an insignificant consideration, however. The school district owns the land on which the new school would be built — another logical attempt at cost savings.
Another $4 million would address significant safety and security concerns. In light of the violence we’ve seen across the country, this issue is paramount. Whether the bond passes or fails, security should be addressed immediately.
Another $2.3 million would renovate McNiel Junior High School to become the ninth-grade campus, an appealing prospect that has proved successful in other districts.
Most appealing in the bond would be the $24.2 million career and technical education center aimed at preparing students for careers in such fields as culinary arts, machining, HVAC, pharmacy tech, emergency medical tech, information technology and industrial automation. This prospect invigorates the Wichita Falls business community, which craves a talented, skilled labor force.
The bond would also preserve the International Baccalaureate successes at Hirschi High School, a facility assessed as in relatively good shape. With $10 million allocated from the bond, Hirschi would become the smaller high school in the district, an attractive option for those wanting such an atmosphere, and would create a new faade at the front of the school, HVAC and building upgrades, handicap accessibility and improved athletic fields.
Memorial Stadium would also be improved. Who doesn’t want to see the parking lot finally fixed?
Barwise and Kirby Junior High schools would also see improvements.
Every aspect of our public school facilities, it seems, would be addressed, at a ticket price the city could handle with the least amount of financial pain. The bond would require an additional 12.1 cents to the current tax rate, increasing your taxes about $10 a month per $100,000 in home value. That’s two trips to Starbucks.
Deanna Watson is on Twitter
Deanna Watson is the editor of Times Record News and provides instant updates on Twitter. Follow her @DeannaatTRN
This issue is obviously contentious. Lifelong friends have opposing signs in their yards. This comes as no surprise, considering the fate of our schools is one of the most important issues of our time.
It’s difficult, but we’ve avoided the inevitable for far too long to save friendships and tradition.
We can no longer afford to vote no.
Another issue occupying our minds these days is water. We can, and have, addressed both issues at the same time.
That being said, what’s often mentioned in criticism of past city leaders is their not building Lake Ringgold when we had the chance.
This is our Lake Ringgold of 2014.
This is our chance. We don’t want to find ourselves down the road, perhaps 2027, saying we missed the chance to do something.