The Wylie school board is considering the possibility of building a second Junior High on property near Kirby Lake and dividing the current Junior High with students living west of US Highway 83/84 going to the current campus and those living east going to the new campus.
The idea is just one of several under discussion to help ease crowding as enrollment continues to balloon within the district.
“All we are doing right now is exploring options,” Wylie Superintendent Joey Light said at Monday night’s school board meeting. “There are a lot of things to consider when you are looking at the long-term needs of the district and how to best use the community’s funds.”
Light originally approached the board at a school board planning session in February with a plan to build a second Early Childhood Center near Lake Kirby and divide students in pre-K through 1st grade along US Highway 83/84.
Current enrollment predictions will mean serious crowding at several campuses in about two years, he said at that meeting. Several years ago, the district purchased land on Colony Hill Road near Kirby Lake in anticipation of needing new campuses.
With more than 1,800 Wylie students (about 45 percent of students in the district) living east of Highway 83/84, a campus in that area makes sense.
The big question is should it be a Junior High or Early Childhood Center or maybe both? Light originally proposed an Early Childhood Center because elementary campuses are significantly cheaper than junior highs.
“I was looking at how we could survive with the funds that we have,” he said. But after hearing from Athletic Director Hugh Sandifer about participation problems at the Junior High, Wylie school board member Darrell Moore asked why not build a second Junior High?
“You can double your participation rates,” Moore said. “It helps us in many ways. To me there are a bunch of intangibles.”
Currently the Junior High has A, B and C teams in most sports and still isn’t able to get all the children involved who want to participate. More than 90 boys played football in each age group this past fall, and finding ways for all those boys to get significant playing time is nearly impossible, Sandifer told the board.
“It’s pretty hard to find games,” Sandifer said. “Our numbers are growing, and everyone else’s are going the other way. It’s kind of a tough deal. We want participation. That’s a philosophy we have held on to.”
The biggest downside to building a Junior High versus an Early Childhood Center is the cost. At Monday’s school board meeting, Light told the board that a Junior High would likely cost at least $25 million.
An Elementary or ECC would likely cost less than $10 million. Light said the district could save enough money to build an ECC within about two years but a Junior High would likely require a bond election.
Light said he really did not want to ask voters to approve another bond election. Voters approved a bond in 2015 to build new classrooms at the High School, which opened this past fall, and a new Performing Arts Center, which is under construction.
However, at the board meeting, Light presented some very preliminary information that showed that a bond to fund a Junior High could be done for as little as 9 cents per $100 evaluation by wrapping a new bond with the current bond.
Another advantage to building a Junior High now is that interest rates and construction costs are lower than they likely would be in five or 10 years, which could save the district a significant amount of money since a new Junior High is likely to be come a necessity eventually.
“When you look at construction costs and interest rates, it might be best for us to move forward now,” Light said.
The board is going to discuss the idea further in a special session one hour prior to its April meeting. For more details on the enrollment problems and possible solutions, see our April issue of the Wylie Growl. Do you have thoughts on a 2nd Junior High?