Staff from the Waelder Independent School District will conduct a campus tour for the public at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 23 to highlight the upgrades, repairs, and new construction proposed in a $13.6 million bond measure that appears on the Saturday, May 7 election ballot. Early voting starts on Monday, April 25.
The tour will start in the cafeteria, which is located between the elementary and high school buildings and adjacent to the playground along North C Avenue in Waelder.
“We will start by going over what needs exist overall, then go through each building to highlight the proposed changes, the issues that will be resolved, upgrades that will be made, remodeling and the sites of planned new construction,” said WISD Superintendent Dr. Ron Lilie.
Enrollment at the 1A school district continues to climb. Enrollment across the K-12 district jumped 15 percent between October and March to 317 students.
Lilie said enrollment has continued to climb into April. The district, with all three of its schools on a single site, is already struggling with congestion amid its current enrollment.
The bond is first for the district since a $3.8 million measure 15 years ago in 2007, and just the second since 1967 in the small rural district that covers parts of Gonzales and Caldwell counties.
The school board deemed the bond necessary to meet the demands of continued short- and long-term enrollment growth, to improve security and safety on the campus, and to relieve congestion in buildings through new and repurposed spaces.
Two of the major sources of congestion are the cafeteria and the gymnasium. The cafeteria, which was built in the 1960s, now requires multiple lunch periods to accommodate the three schools. The gymnasium, which also houses the administrative offices, was built after the 2007 bond. However, like the cafeteria, finding time for all three schools to have indoor exercise activities during extreme heat and cold is taxing the facility.
“Right now a large part of the school day is impacted by getting students in and out of the cafeteria and the same applies to the gym,” said School Board President Dora Noyola. “The school needs the capability to be more efficient in scheduling, so that we can continue to upgrade course offerings and increase safety for our students."
The bond would utilize the high school’s former gymnasium, which has not been used since it was deemed obsolete and replaced by the new gym in 2008, by upgrading it to a “cafetorium” — a combination cafeteria and auditorium. Not only would it relieve the cafeteria concerns, but it would also provide a stage for graduation ceremonies and for performances by the award-winning theater arts program.
The bond would address the physical education space crunch by enclosing the current covered pavilion and basketball courts behind the new gym to create a second temperature-controlled gym. This would allow two schools to use a gym simultaneously.
The administration offices would move from the current space in the gym to the former cafeteria site, which would be remodeled. This would bring the added benefit of having its entrance facing North C Avenue like the main entrances for the elementary, middle and high school buildings.
Security and Safety
Currently, the entrance to each school is through respective key-operated glass double-doors that face out onto North C Avenue.
If the bond is approved, each campus would add a new vestibule entrance along with storefront doors and electric locks to improve the safety of students, staff and visitors. As needed for safety, windows will be replaced with panels in keeping with the storefront approach. Fire sprinkler systems will be installed, and fire alarms updated as needed. Security camera would be added across the campus, along with canopies covering designated sidewalks
Every corner of the district would be affected by the bond’s passage. New flooring, lighting, bathroom exhaust fans, ADA upgrades, doors locks, and paint are planned for multiple business in addition to the schools, including the buildings for Lifeskills and Career/Tech. Repairs and updates for the 4-H Barn are planned, along with the expansion of the existing bus barn.
The $13.6 million bond, if passed, would add about $176 to the yearly property tax of someone with a home appraised at $100,000 who uses the residential homestead exemption — less than $15 per month.