WACO, Texas – For the past five months, a committee of more than 60 parents, educators and other community members has been studying the Waco Independent School District’s long-term facilities needs.
This group concluded their process Monday night by recommending that the district consider replacing four campuses with new buildings.
“It’s ambitious, it’s a lot of work,” Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said. “It would really move the district along in terms of meeting our vision of education and improving equity in our schools.”
Early in the committee’s process, members began focusing on some of the district’s oldest buildings: Waco High built in 1961, G.W. Carver and Tennyson middle schools built in the 1950s, and Kendrick Elementary built in 1952. While all four campuses have had some renovations in the intervening decades, the committee concluded these buildings do not meet the educational needs of today’s students, and that it makes more sense to replace the existing campuses with new buildings at their current location than to incur the high maintenance costs anticipated over the next ten to 15 years.
“We’re looking to add collaboration spaces and really change the look and feel of education on a campus like a Waco High School,” Kincannon said. “It will more closely align to what you see at University High School.”
The committee also discussed replacing existing campuses with larger buildings which could serve more students and, in doing so, offer more academic programs while reducing administrative costs. One possibility discussed was to build a replacement for G.W. Carver Middle which would be big enough to accommodate students currently attending both G.W. Carver and Indian Spring middle schools. Another was to build a larger Kendrick Elementary which could also serve many of the students currently attending Alta Vista Elementary.
“The educational vision of 1961 is completely different from the educational vision of 2021,” Kincannon said.
The architectural firm hired by Waco ISD to advise the committee estimates that building a new high school, two new middle schools and a new elementary school along with renovations at an existing elementary school could cost $376.1 million. The district’s financial advisor told the committee that issuing bonds to pay for those projects would increase the district’s tax rate about 12.49 cents per $100 of assessed valuation or $12.23 per month for the average homeowner in Waco ISD.
“Any time you talk about asking for money, you certainly want to be thoughtful,” Kincannon said. “Our community needs to know that this committee has been very thoughtful, and there’s been extensive research done, and that the committee has the best interest of the taxpayers at heart.”
Architects will present the Community Advisory Committee’s recommendations to the school board next month. This summer, the school board will review the recommendations and decide which projects to move forward as well as whether to seek voter approval to issue bonds to pay for the construction of new schools.
For this question to appear on the ballot this November, the school board would need to call a bond election by mid-August.
Source: Waco Independent School District