Leo Neely, Co-Chair of the FACTS Committee

Leo Neely, Co-Chair of the Facilities Advisory of Citizens, Teachers and Students Committee, presented the results of their research to the WISD board, recommending a bond election be called.

Two public hearings remain after being called by the Weatherford ISD board to hear from residents about the possibility of the district calling a bond election in May. A committee recommended the board consider calling a bond election for $99.2 million. 

The first public hearing, on Tuesday at 6 p.m., will be held in the board room of the District Services Building, 1100 Longhorn Drive.

The second, on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 6 p.m., will also be held in the board room, and may result in a vote from the board to either put a bond election on the May 9 ballot or take no action.

The decision must be made 60 days prior to it being placed on the ballot, should the board elect to take it to voters.

The Facilities Advisory of Citizens, Teachers and Students Committee presented the Weatherford ISD board its recommendations last week after reviewing the needs of the district.

Co-chairs Amy Crippen and Leo Neely said the committee members pledge to do all they can to educate residents about the need for new schools, repairs and renovations.Crippen told the board that the group had met several times, worked hard to determine what the needs of the district were and that their recommendations were important to the future of WISD.

“We reviewed and prioritized the needs of the district, she said. “We looked at what was best for our kids. We looked at the safety and security of our children and at technology. We wanted to make sure we were good stewards of the money of our community.”

Crippen said they also looked at the ages of campuses and evaluated grade alignment for the district, as well as growth, safety and securities concerns and career and technology education. They then added stewardship and fiscal responsibility to the list of guiding principles to help them make their decision.

Each of the seven meetings over three months was held at a different campus so they could see the facilities as students were learning. 

“We were able to see some of the campuses that had portable buildings, with students having to come out into parking lots,” she said. 

WISD’s 2014-2015 enrollment is at 7,735 and is expected to increase by about 300 students during the next five years, and grow by 780 in the next 10 years. 

Consultants projected enrollment for 2019-2020 to be 8,033, and in 2024-2025 to reach 8,571.

The group looked at several issues, Crippen said. “We are projected to grow with 800 more students. Where are we going to put these kids?”

Finally, the committee formed a recommendation for a May 2015 bond election.

In the breakdown of the needs they felt the district had, the 27 community members, business leaders, parents, students and staff made the following recommendations:

• Existing facility deficiencies — $30.2 million

• Replace Hall Middle School and provide classroom additions to Tison Middle School aligning 6-8 grade levels — $45.8 million

• Ninth grade addition to Weatherford High School — $14.6 million

Converting the existing Ninth Grade Center to a magnet/STEM school would be an additional $31.6 million,  and neither was included in the proposal.

• Elementary school controlled entry vestibules — $8.6 million 

An assessment of all 1,500,000 square feet of the district was done, leading to identifying current deficiencies that were placed into tiers and totalled $76.5 million of need.

A survey of the community showed that if a bond election for $100 million was held today, 35 percent would vote “for” and 47 percent “against,” while 18 percent are unsure.

The committee noted that “this is a steep hill to climb” but added that after learning more about the possible bond election, 49 percent would vote in favor and 44 percent against it.

“However, intensity of the informed ballot favors the no side, and a majority of non-parents are still opposed. This indicated that passage is possible with more information and high parent turnout, but it is not a given,” said Crippen.

Breaking down actual tax increases to fund the bond were also provided by the committee. Using bonds of $25 million to $150 million, they showed what the monthly increase would be on the taxable value of $100,000.

For a $100 million bond, the monthly increase would be $12.11.

Neely explained to the board how grade realignment would be done: 

• Currently, elementary schools include Pre-K through 6th grades. 

The proposed realignment would move sixth grade to middle school; which currently houses only grades 7 and 8.

• Other uses for the Ninth Grade Center would be possible if those students were moved to the high school, now housing grades 10, 11 and 12.

In their presentations, the chairmen noted that including ninth grade at the high school would eliminate the need for separate transportation to and from the Ninth Grade Center.

The Center would continue to serve Career and Technology education programs and additional spaces be re-purposed for programs currently housed at Bowie Learning Center and Travis Family Center. Controlled entry vestibules would be added as well, requiring visitors to report to the campus office in order to present identification before being granted access to the school.

Although the Facilities Advisory of Citizens, Teachers and Students Committee considered several options when they presented their proposal to the Weatherford ISD board last week, the committee decided not to include some in the $99.2 million recommendation.

They discussed building baseball and softball fields at $5.1 million, but chose not to seek funding for them at this time.

Among the needs recommendations from the committee are to replace Hall Middle School to serve grades 6-8 because it has exceeded its useful lifecycle.

An additional $5.1 million would be used to rebuild baseball and softball fields at the high school.