By CHRIS AGEE
A multidisciplinary group of volunteers recently toured all campuses included within the Mineral Wells Independent School District. The Facilities Study Committee was tasked with identifying the most pressing issues facing the district and creating a list of issues to be addressed.
Kay Brown, president of the Palo Pinto County Retired Teachers and School Employees Association, said the committee was comprised of a various community leaders.
The 28-member group was made up of a cross-section of the community, said First Financial Bank CEO and committee spokesperson Ken Williamson.
In addition to current and retired school employees, she said representatives from the various industries – including hospital, banking, legal, and insurance – were included in the project.
“We met for seven weeks,” Brown said, and “visited all the schools, including the District Service Complex, the bus barn, technology” and the city’s alternative education center.
“We first met at the high school and that was our initial tour of that campus and we went through it completely,” Williamson said; “though, with 28 people it was a little unweildy and we decided to break into two groups going forward ... to speed up the process and make it easier to go through the buildings and classrooms.”
He said the committee met with architects who provided information about the schools and their respective histories.
The committee identified four areas of concern along with recommendations, which Williamson included in a letter sent to MWISD Board President Joe Ruelas.
The first recommendation dealt with improved security, which the committee felt could benefit from across-the-board advancements.
“We wanted all the schools to have a main entry point,” Williamson said. “The architects had ideas about how that would work.”
The singular entrance would make it easier to ensure all visitors are registered and issued a badge.
Additionally, the committee favors a system through which “you could tell if doors were left unlocked from a central location,” he added.
Finally, Williamson said updated and expanded security camera systems are warranted throughout the district.
Secondly, the committee recommended Lamar Elementary School be replaced entirely. Despite expansions and updates, the structure built in 1955 faces “multiple issues ... that cannot be reasonably solved with any additional renovations,” the letter states.
“We’d like to see a new school started in a few years,” Williamson said. “It’s just out-of-date and doesn’t have a kitchen large enough. We thought that was the most glaring of the campuses.”
The Mineral Wells High School track is the committee’s third focus, citing foundation base issues that have caused cracks, peeling, and drainage concerns over time. The committee recommended a replacement of the track surface, noting “patching of the track will not solve the problem.”
Finally, the committee recommended renovations to the Mineral Wells Junior High School building. Concluding a new building will be required in the future, the committee suggested keeping renovation costs to the 50-year-old structure as low as possible.
Committee members met with an architect company last month and received drawings and implementation plans for each of the recommendations.
“We feel these four goals could be achieved with a bond issue,” Williamson wrote in the letter. The final decision will be left to the MWISD board.