The Community Facilities Action team reached a unanimous decision Tuesday to recommend moving Wichita Falls ISD from a three high school district to a two high school district.
It also wants a stand-alone career center.
The members expressed an early, strong preference for building two new high schools — but refused to label them as Rider, Wichita Falls High School or Hirschi.
“OK, we’d have a new umph and a new umph,” CFAT Chairman Kerry Maroney said as he attempted to mirror back what CFAT members expressed.
“Call it a new North High School and a new South High School,” suggested one member.
“Well, I’m not sure that’s north and south,” Maroney said as they discussed locations.
After the meeting, WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy summarized CFAT’s most decisive meeting yet.
“We’re shutting down all three high schools and building two new ones, with the identities and names yet to be determined,” she said of the committee’s recommendation. “This is fresh. This is about a new start for everyone.”
Both plans that CFAT voted to send to school board members for their ultimate approval would include a separate career center with a 1,000-student capacity on WFISD property.
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Neither plan included a ninth-grade center.
The CFAT is in the final stage of crafting a bond proposal to present to WFISD school board members in their Feb. 11 work session. The community team has been working since November to study district needs and come up with a plan that they believe the community will adopt in a planned-for bond election May 10.
In the CFAT proposal, the two new schools will be categorized by their locations — either a central campus (at the WFHS location) and a south campus (at the McNiel location) or a north campus (at the Hirschi site) and a south campus (at the McNiel site).
“No names will be attached because everybody’s shutting down,” Murphy said of the CFAT proposal.
CFAT members adopted the two plans to send on to the school board — Concept D and Concept D-1 — but put their own spin on both.
Concept D ($178 million to $219.5 million) outlined building two new ninth through 12th grade high schools, one at the McNiel site and one at the WFHS site, and closing Hirschi. The plan requires buying up properties to Kell. Unlike some of the other plans, it includes a larger $7 million to $11 million stadium improvement plan that includes restroom renovations.
The new Concept D-1 ($166 million to $219.5 million), which CFAT members saw for the first time Tuesday, was similar, building two new high schools and closing WFHS instead of Hirschi. It also includes the larger stadium improvement plan.
CFAT members stressed the importance of building the two new high schools only on property already owned by the district.
Maroney estimated that could save $10 million to $12 million.
CFAT members also said they wanted the two schools to have equal capacity of 1,900 students and be as identical as possible.
A majority of CFAT members preferred deleting from the plan the option of building a new $15 million to $22 million elementary school since this was supposed to be a bond that addressed secondary needs.
In a secret vote, 19 voted to leave the elementary school out, 9 voted to leave it in, and 3 voted to leave that decision to board members.
Maroney suggested compromising by leaving the elementary school in the plan, and CFAT members nodded their OK.
“I question whether we can get $200 million approved,” CFAT member Brent Hillery said. “Do we go and let the board worry about that? If we feel in our hearts that $100 million to $125 million will get approved, we’re going to have to slash something.”
CFAT member Bethlyn Eby reminded the group that the numbers they agreed to early in the process may have been too low. “The more we’ve researched, the more we realize we are so far behind. Much of this should have been approved way back when. We need to step it up and make up for lost time. We may get support for the larger number.”
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Maroney reminded the group that a bond issue of $150 million to $200 million will cost a homeowner who has a property valued at $100,000 just $14 to $20 per month.
“That is newer and that is fewer,” Maroney said. “Some whittling has to be done. As it rattles around the community, we’ll get some feedback.”
One CFAT member reminded the team that it will be their job to sell this plan to the community.
“(The cost) scares the living hell out of me,” he said. “But we have to look at what we get for that amount. Look at what we’re trying to do for the kids.”
Maroney warned that it would be a tough sell, with 46,000 registered voters in the district and 13,000 of them expected to show up at the polls. “All we need is 50 percent plus one,” he said.