Residents, faculty, staff and administrators gathered inside Stephenville High School Tuesday afternoon for the second bond public information meeting and tour, which some called an “eye opening” experience.
Teachers and administrators led guests through the 40-year-old school discussing the areas that would be addressed if the $60.8 million bond proposal passes in May.
Here is a breakdown of the tour.
Career and Technical Education programs
The tour began with the Career and Technical Education portion starting in the family consumer science classroom where 422 students take nine different courses — including culinary classes — throughout high school.
“We’re limited in this space in terms of the types of classes we can offer here,” said teacher Ryan Best. “We cannot offer an advanced culinary course because this is not what would be considered an industrial kitchen. We have to have commercial stoves and a different way of handling our students.”
CTE courses allow students to gain real world skills so they can get a job after high school and they also receive weighted funding from the state.
“That’s why CTE is so important to our high school because it’s what helps generate the revenue in order for us to have outstanding staff and be able to put our children through the programs we have.”
The bond would renovate the culinary department to include an industrial kitchen.
The tour continued with CTE into robotics and agriculture courses.
“These are employable skills that they’re going to take out into the workforce and we’re coming to the realization that college isn’t for everybody,” Best said. “While we encourage students to pursue some kind of further education, it may not be in the form of a traditional four-year bachelors degree and that’s okay because here in our CTE programs we’re preparing them.”
Two classrooms are designated for agriculture — one taught by Best and the other by Michael Rainey — and are separated by a cardboard divider.
“Our FFA chapter boasts 402 students, which makes it in the top six percent in the state in terms of total membership and so we have a total of 468 students come through our classes and 402 of them are in FFA,” Best said. “We have had students earn $1.1 million in scholarship money in the last five years alone and we really feel like our students excel in a lot of ways.”
Best also took guests through the shop and ag mechanics classrooms, which was not built with a women’s restroom or dressing facility.
“Back 40 years ago it was expected that only boys took shop classes and so the bathrooms were only equipped for boys, so a small locker room was built and we had the urinals removed so the bathroom is where the girls change now,” Best said. “This is a big concern that we have.”
If the bond passes, the plan is to built a separate ag facility that’s not attached to the main building.
Fine Arts programs
There are more than 360 students involved in fine arts courses at SHS — theatre, choir, band and art.
“There is no AC, heat or ventilation in our dressing rooms to the left of the stage, so it’s impossible to get ready in there,” said SHS theatre director Mindy Pope. “We’ve had to have 11 soft spots repaired on the stage in the past year and a half. We really don’t have a place to paint or build sets except on the stage. I have a costume closet down in the audience area.”
There are 150 students in choir this year and the classroom sits directly next to the band hall.
“There are three spaces in the back that are suppose to be practice rooms. Two of them are used for music and one is used for all my sound equipment; they’re all full,” said choir director Arielle Sword. “There’s one medium-sized room that (Michael) Childs and I share.”
The band has approximately 120 members and director of bands Michael Childs said he has run out of locker space for instruments.
Both the band and choir can hear each other through the walls.
The plan would be to build a new fine arts auditorium with seating for 1,100 (enough seats to accompany all students); extend the band hall, choir and art classrooms and add space for dance; and make everything ADA compliant.
Athletic Director Mike Copeland led the final portion of the tour through the gym and athletic locker rooms.
“A lot has changed since 1975 when we started all this. We now offer 16 sports to our boys and girls and we haven’t done anything — besides add programs,” Copeland said. “The only thing I care about are the kids. We can no longer all get in the auditorium and we can’t find a seat for everybody in our gym. There aren’t enough seats for every student. We win in everything and it’s hard to win in everything. We win in spite of our facility and there are needs everywhere.”
Looks of shock appeared on attendees faces when touring the athletic locker rooms and bathroom facilities.
“One of those items on the proposed projects is a softball field here on the campus. We’re the only school in this part of the country that doesn’t have a softball field on campus,” Copeland said. “And every day at 3:30 p.m. when those girls get in those cars and drive down to the park, I think about them. Kids do stupid things sometimes when they get behind the wheel and we’ve been so lucky with no accidents, but we talk about that all the time and I think that alleviates one of the worries that if I was a parent and had a girl that played softball, I would worry about it every day.”
The bond would address these issues by adding a softball field, renovating and making additions to the entire locker room areas and adding a new competitive-sized gym.
“I don’t see anything on that list that I thought was extravagant,” Copeland said. “Everything on there is a basic need for our children.”
The estimated monthly tax impact of the $60.8 million bond is $9 per month for a home valued at $100,000 — $13.50 for a value of $150,000; $18 for a value of $200,000; $22.50 for a value of $250,000; and $27 for a home valued at $300,000. The total tax rate would be $1.3429.
“Our kids are proud of what they have, but they deserve so much better,” said SHS principal Stephanie Traweek. “We’re going to other places, smaller schools, and they’re almost like, ‘Why can’t we have this?’ And we are very successful in everything we do. Our kids deserve this.”