Under a cool, clear blue sky, Willis ISD board members joined Superintendent Tim Harkrider in shoveling dirt Wednesday in celebration of the realization of a community vision.
School officials laughed and spoke loudly over the construction sounds of steel beams being erected behind them for the long-awaited $39.4 million Career and Technology Education Center. The 112,950-square-foot project is one of nine passed by WISD voters in the $109.5 million bond package in 2015.
Harkrider arrived at Willis ISD in 2013 and recalled nearly two years of meetings, drawings and more for the first bond passed under his leadership with the CTE project.
“To see it now, and when I walked through it two weeks ago, all I could say was wow,” Harkrider told a crowd of about two dozen community members gathered under a tent. “To build a facility like this for the community of Willis, this is a big day for our school district and I’m thrilled that you are a part of it. There was a lot of hard work and dedication, a lot of hours spent on a whole lot of different fronts by a lot of people. I think a lot of dreaming, a lot of hoping, a lot of praying, but hopefully Lord willing this thing is going to open August 2018 …”
The CTE Center, which sits next to Willis High School on FM 830, will house nearly 500 to 600 students who will step foot in a modern-day learning environment with a tech look and collegiate feel designed with open spaces, common areas, garage doors, classrooms, dining areas and areas for culinary arts, manufacturing, automotive mechanics, welding and manufacturing, health and science, cosmetology, media technology, robotics, computer programing, architecture, engineering labs, its own cafeteria and more.
“I think it can have a profound impact just from a stand point of about 55-60 percent of (about an average class of 400) seniors enroll in a university or junior college the following year, so we have about 35-40 percent now that we are really wanting to appeal to because we’ve doubled the certification offerings we will have,” Harkrider said. “With the offerings, kids enjoy coming to school because they have something they believe in – so attendance improves, grades improve because you’re here and you have a little bit more motivation to come to school every day.”