Windfern offers alternative education opportunities to high school students who wish to graduate early to earn additional credits, to students who are in danger of aging out of the public school system and need to catch up on credits and to teenage parents helping them stay on track with childcare on site.
“What they do on that campus is absolutely remarkable,” Trustee Don Ryan said. “In my opinion, they’re saving lives. Anything we can do to enhance their programs, I’m all in.”
Linda Macias, associate superintendent of curriculum, instruction and accountability, said the school’s vision and mission to cater to students who choose an alternative learning environment will continue, but moving the campus could bring expansion opportunities.
CFISD administrators are researching possibilities of a culinary lab in the Matzke cafeteria along with classes in industries such as information technology, hospitality and tourism, human services, arts, AV technology and communication, Macias said.
Added space would also allow for enhanced trade programs including welding, electrical, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning studies.
“We’ve talked about looking at different trades to offer at the Windfern School of Choice,” Macias said. “We know that the trades can provide students with an immediate skill job with a salary once they leave high school.”
Moving the school to Matzke would allow students from other high schools in the district to take classes there, and evening courses could be an option for students who already have full schedules during the day, Macias said.
The current Matzke site is about 75,000 square feet, while Windfern’s campus only has about 50,000 square feet of space.
“Matzke looks to be the perfect solution to help expand this program,” said Roy Sprague, associate superintendent of facilities, construction and support services. “It gives us additional room to grow and help support these additional possibilities.”
The district’s 2014 bond dedicated $12.1 million to the repurposing of Matzke’s facilities. Sprague said renovating the gymnasium and main building to accommodate the new programs would be the first phase of the project.
However, as the program grows, the second phase would fall under a future bond. Sprague said it would cost about $9.95 million to add a 7,200-square-foot building for trade programs and additional parking to the campus.
In the meantime, Matzke’s six portable buildings can accommodate certain trade programs until future bond money becomes available.
Sprague said the design phase of the project is moving forward, and he hopes to award a construction contract at the November board meeting. On this timeline, the facility would open for the 2018-19 school year, he said.
Windfern’s Principal Martha Strother said she has always felt that Windfern is one of the most underutilized campuses in the district, and she is excited about being able to offer more programs to students.
“Not everybody is college-bound, and that’s not a sin,” Strother said. “We need welders, we need HVAC people.”
Although the facility has adequate space for its current offerings, Strother said to continue growing and keep class sizes small, moving to the Matzke site is an exciting possibility.
Students who do not have access to transportation can take shuttle buses from their home high school campuses to and from Windfern daily.
Once Windfern fully makes the transition to Matzke, the facilities on Windfern Road could potentially be repurposed as an administrative annex, officials said. Additional parking is available across the street at Pridgeon Stadium.