Plans for WF High Schools

WFISD sifting through options

 Board starts honing plan for new schools

 Wichita Falls ISD board members agreed on several key directions for improv­ing their high schools in a work session at noon Tues­day.

It all can be done for $125 million or less, WFISD Superintendent John Frossard said. The public would have to approve pay­ing the amount in a bond election in May.

Without taking an official vote, most board members said they favored moving from three high schools to two high schools and a separate career center.

Only two — Trey Sralla and Dale Harvey — op­posed it. However, all decided to move in the direction the majority preferred.

They also agreed that one of the high schools would be large — about 1,900 students — and an­other would be smaller, about 845 students.

The large high school also will have a ninth-grade center at its campus to hold a maximum of 725 students.

Board members also gen­erally agreed on the loca­tions of each school.

The large high school can most cost-effectively be built on the district’s land at Memorial Stadium, where McNiel Junior High can be adapted for use with it as a ninth-grade center, they said.

The smaller high school would be at the current Hirschi High School, which would be renovated and im­proved with about $5 mil­lion.

The separate career and technology center needs to be centrally located, board members decided. They agreed to put it at the Wichita Falls High School campus.

It could sit on the current WFHS track, facing south.

Board members envision a handsome broad drive leading from Taft Boulevard to the school. Such an entrance might require acquiring land through eminent domain, but it would not have to be done immediately, Frossard said.

The old Rider High School building would be turned into a junior high building.

Frossard suggested the Education Center on Broad Street could be closed so that all of its staff could move into the WFHS building. It would be a way to preserve a building that holds much tradition, he said, and an excuse to shut down the Education Center, which is one of the district’s oldest buildings. No clear decision was made on that point.

In other agreements, board members said it is important to provide transportation for students who live farther than walking distance from any school.

Will the Choice Program survive all this change?

Board members suggested that students in fifth grade choose their junior high school (which will include sixth grade) as their one and only choice.

Then Kirby Junior High would feed to Hirschi, Barwise and the renovated Rider facility would feed to the new high school sitting at the stadium.

Board members consulted Dan White, the district’s fine arts director, on how fine arts would fare in a large high school. White said a large school “provides for growth.”

As board members tried to envision what their career center would look like, Frossard said it might hold 250 students taking an early college specialty, then 300 students taking technical courses in the morning and 300 in the afternoon.

He insisted that the district must collaborate with Vernon College to use its labs, many that sit empty between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Several loose agreements already have been made, Frossard said.

As board members began dreaming aloud on new ways to set up a career center, Frossard stopped them.

“I want to be careful we don’t take on too much or create or reinvent too many wheels,” he said.

Nationally recognized certifications already exist, many that he used when he opened a regional high-tech career center in another state. Its certification programs were selected to help the city attract new industry.

“That’s a good direction to head. Its employer recognized. I’d be concerned with trying to rewrite our curriculum and our CTE program when there are industry standards we can base our curriculum on. I don’t want to over promise and under deliver,” he said. WFISD Academic Director David Freeman said Vernon College has medical programs at its Century City Center. “It’s unbelievable what they have out there,” he said.

WFISD might complement VC with programs in welding, CNC and engineering.

Board member Kirk Wolfe suggested making significant improvements to Hirschi, which is the small school in the district’s two- school plan.“It needs significant upgrades and possibly a football stadium, with turf — no grass,” Wolfe said. “That school needs to look every bit as good as the new City View.”

He also urged board members to consider improvements to the district’s agriculture program, which until now has been used just by Rider students. A new group of students who attend the large high school would be exposed to the program, so facilities may need to be enlarged.

“Whatever we can get for $125 million, that’s what I want,” said the Rev. Reginald Blow, a board member. “However we can make that work.”


From the Wichita Falls Times Record News, February 19, 2014