WFISD Board discusses potential school closures, attendance zones

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:55 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - The Wichita Falls ISD Board met in a special session Friday to discuss attendance zones for the new high schools and the possibility of consolidating resources within the district — which could mean closing other schools in the future.

A drop in enrollment over the last two years has decreased the amount of funding WFISD receives and is forcing a change in how they utilize existing facilities. Superintendent Michael Kuhrt told News Channel 6 that the school district has lost around 800 students since the 2019 school year. Around 600 of those students exited in the height of COVID-19, while the other 200 left this year.

WFISD is funded based on the number of students who attend, so fewer students means decreased revenue. A 6% reduction in income, to be exact.

“What we’re looking at now is trying to decrease expenses, and that’s just going to require cuts around the district, and that’s pretty hard to do sometimes,” Kuhrt said.

Any cuts would be reflected in WFISD’s 2022-2023 budget, and Friday’s special session marked the beginning of the conversation: redrawing district lines. A subcommittee of three board members began drawing the line that would separate the attendance zones of the two new high schools. Those zones would also affect middle and elementary schools in the district.

The board was given a demo of the software used to track the student population, courtesy of Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths, and resolved to have further workshops to learn the complicated process to help accomplish their goals. WFISD has stated that they want both high schools to be as uniform as possible when it comes to ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as opportunities offered to students.

The board agreed that achieving this uniformity would mean redrawing district lines on a more frequent basis, an idea that drew the support of many members. Hirschi and Old High were established in the 60s, while Rider was opened in 1924, yet boundary lines have seldom been revisited. The board decided to change that by committing to reviewing attendance zones every 2-3 years, in addition to making it a standing agenda item for the foreseeable future.

“I think this town wants us to make some changes, and we’ve said for 20 years that we have too many schools. And yet we are slow to change,” said Katherine McGregor, school board member.

Redrawing those lines would also allow WFISD to consolidate its resources more efficiently. There are currently many disparities between WFISD campuses when it comes to capacity: shifting populations mean that some campuses are completely full, while others have many open spaces.

“For a long time we’ve had small neighborhood schools, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient thing,” said Kuhrt. “There’s a possibility then that we could eliminate the need for some of those schools.”

WFISD will continue discussion on these topics in coming months, as the two new high schools come closer to becoming a reality.

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