- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

ARCHER CITY, Texas (AP) - Pulitzer Prize- and Oscar-winning author Larry McMurtry walked through its hallways.

So has successful television comedian Angela Kinsey of “The Office” fame and “Your Family or Mine,” along with countless doctors, lawyers, judges and teachers.

But since July, those hallways are no more.

The Wichita Falls Times Record News (https://bit.ly/1WoOP0R ) reports the Archer City ISD is preparing for a new school year, with its junior high and high school students getting set to walk the hallways in two nearby, side-by-side portables while the district prepares to build a new building where the old one sat.

Archer City Junior High/High School is partly a pile of rubble and partly still standing, its onetime brick facade decimated as a demolition crew brings down the 1925 building to make room for a new, 55,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility due to open in August 2016.

The structure is the result of a $17.7 million bond passed Nov. 4 by just seven votes, 485 to 478. The bond includes other school projects, such as the installation of a new turf athletic field, currently underway, and elementary school building improvements.

The impetus for the new building, Archer City ISD Superintendent C.D. Knobloch said, was not just a desire to update the aging, 90-year-old structure, but an opportunity that presented itself via tax revenue generated from a nearby 128-turbine wind farm.

“Our board said, we better look at some construction.”

About 24 percent of the bond will be paid by wind farm revenue. Meanwhile, taxpayers who own a $100,000 home will see their taxes go up in 2015-16 by about $15.

A study was done 18 years ago - in 1997 - that indicated the high school building might be usable for years still, but, “Back then, they advised demolition (of the old building),” Knobloch said. Although the building was still usable, the study suggested the building was not conducive to education today.

As with any big change, the superintendent said not everyone was happy with the decision to demolish the building, which holds sentimental value for so many in the town.

“But it has done its time,” he said. ” … With the community, there has been some mixed feelings there.”

Knobloch himself taught at the old high school for many years. What he will miss is the look of the facility. But as far as functionality, “It kept kids out of the rain,” he said.

He’s ready for the new structure, which will be comparable in size to the 1925 high school.

One big plus is energy efficiency.

“It’s going to be much more efficient as far as energy goes. It will be a building with less entrances and exits for increased security. It will be climate-controlled.”

Knobloch got a little push back from teachers, he said, who bemoaned fewer windows, though less windows means more energy efficiency.

And the technology capacity will be better, Knobloch said, adding how it was a challenge to get wireless Internet working in the old structure.

“Techwise, it will be a lot better and will be more welcoming and learner-friendly.”

The district has been cautious with is money, Knobloch said.

“We’re not a rich district.”

It’s why administrators chose to build the new facility at the old high school site. The elementary school is just next door, and elementary, junior high and high school students share a cafeteria. Relocating would have meant building a new cafeteria.

Also, working in the portables for a year will save the district $500,000, Knobloch said.

The 460-student district includes 150 high-schoolers and 75 seventh- and eighth-graders who will be in the portables - each touts 10 classrooms. The portables already include some high-tech additions, such as 60-inch, interactive, big-screen TVs that connect to computers; they replace traditional classroom white boards.

And while demolition continues on the old building over the next three weeks, people in the community have been stopping by to collect bricks from the structure as keepsakes. Some of those bricks will be used to create a memorial wall at the new school.

School in the Archer City ISD starts Aug. 24.


Information from: Wichita Falls Times Record News, https://www.timesrecordnews.com

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