Future of WFISD high schools uncertain in bond issue

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)—

What future do the Wichita Falls high schools have under the upcoming bond issue? As high schools, they may have no future.

That seems to be where the long-range facility plan is headed.

While Wichita Falls Independent School District school board members discuss the potential for Wichita Falls High School retirement. That could mean sold, or used for storage or other uses for the district, or it could mean torn down.

The plans being discussed that the bond would pay for would eliminate the three existing high schools and repurpose Hirschi and Rider as middle schools.

But still to be determined is a question that may be up to voters to decide: Will the district have one super high school or two new high schools?

Now that phase four of a five-step plan has been completed through the passing of the tax ratification election last month, the WFISD school board is working toward making a decision on the long-range facility plan that could lead to a bond election in November.

“I want what Wichita Falls wants,” WFISD Superintendent Micheal Kuhrt said. “Whatever our community will support—that’s what we need to give them.”

“We’re not trying to fix just one problem at one campus but we’re trying to take a global perspective of our district and our facilities and looking forward to the needs of our students over the next 20 plus years,” School Board President Elizabeth Yeager said.

The meeting was just a work session so no decision was made, and there is still a long way to go in the discussion.

But board members have a clearer vision of what the future could look like—which includes two different high school models.

In the one high school model, the idea is to build a new high school, turn Hirschi and Rider into middle schools, and renovate Barwise and keep it as a middle school. Booker T. Washington Elementary would remain an elementary school and be renovated and enlarged.

The two high school model includes two new high schools, with Hirschi, Rider and Booker T. Washington becoming middle schools and Barwise remaining a middle school.

“If we can offer the voters two options yes or no, if you vote yes is it option a or option b, I think that would be ideal because that way our community will decide this is what they like,” Kuhrt said.

Kuhrt said deciding if the voters want a one high school or two high school city is the biggest roadblock at the moment. He adds that it will cost more to renovate the current three high schools rather than building one new high school.

Plans for elementary schools are also being discussed.

“A major piece of this plan that we’ve seen here today is to repurpose McNeil middle school into an elementary school and then do quite a bit of renovation at a number of the other elementary schools around the district,” Yeager said.

The entire board is eager for a decision to be made because, in order to put a bond issue before district voters in November, they must finalize a plan by Aug. 19.

This is not the first time the district has gone to voters for a decision on what to do with the aging and underutilized high schools.

In 2014, a $125 million bond proposed building a new high school to consolidate Rider and Wichita Falls high school, and almost 75% of voters rejected it.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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