While Midway Independent School District officials voted against one possible construction project Tuesday night that could impact traffic in their district, they may soon have to consider another — a new school.
Midway ISD’s board voted to oppose a proposed landfill site by the city of Waco. And, as part of a strategic plan summary report at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Midway ISD school board members heard about the need for a new high school, middle school, ninth-grade center or career and technology campus to address overcrowding with future student growth.
The summary report was the result of several focus groups and a districtwide survey held throughout the school year where residents, students, staff, parents and alumni spoke about where they would like to see Midway ISD go next.
Of the nearly 1,400 people involved, 81 percent indicated Midway ISD produces responsible and productive citizens and 93 percent said Midway ISD provides adequate funding for facilities, equipment and programs.
But 45 percent of the participants also believe Midway ISD schools are overcrowded, and they’d like the district to build either a second high school, a ninth-grade center or a career and technology campus to keep campus sizes down. Still others indicated they would prefer the district build a second middle school.
“We’ll treat our initial plans as a working document and plan to continue to follow that format from this point forward in terms of some of the goals and initiatives you’re going to see,” Superintendent George Kazanas said.
The school board also walked away with several ideas beyond facilities for ways to improve the district overall with the information from the survey and focus groups. The ideas include how to better inform residents how school finance works, increasing communication to nonparent taxpayers and exploring additional funding opportunities, and making sure all students are ready for post-secondary education.
The district will now look at how to apply the data and address the issues discovered, Kazanas said.
He said that won’t necessarily involve calling for a bond election, but could involve putting a committee together to weigh viable options. School board members said the hardest part will be getting people to understand how school financing works as they begin making decisions.
“We definitely have a road map now,” he said.
After hearing a presentation by Waco City Manager Dale Fisseler, the school board also voted unanimously on a resolution opposing any additional landfill along the U.S. Highway 84 corridor and called for the city to seek out other possible sites to demonstrate the city’s “due diligence to citizens regarding this important decision.”
The resolution states the currently proposed site on Old Lorena Road would possibly increase traffic on an “already congested thoroughfare for residents, students and staff members commuting to school and work,” and the school board had overall concerns about student safety with the proximity of the landfill to nearby schools.
If the landfill were built on Old Lorena Road, it would be almost a mile from the nearest subdivision, adjacent to the current Waco Regional Landfill. School district officials were also concerned about incoming growth to the district and what they might want to do with land in the area if they wanted to expand, they said.
“By the letter of the law, it’s OK,“ board member Bobby Deaton said. “But it doesn’t feel right.”
The city already owns the 270-acre site on Old Lorena Road, but the site has drawn scrutiny in the form of a lawsuit by the group “Citizens to Save Lake Waco,” an organized group of residents advancing concerns similar to those of the school district.
“Having sat in on some of the steering committee meetings for the citizens group and following that web page very closely, the side of the argument we’re hearing tonight is by no means the full scope of the story,” said board member Pam Watts. “ ... I’ve lived in a portion of the city of Waco where the communities, the citizens of Waco have been overlooked and unheard and not listened to and the promises broken. If this sends a message to our elected officials that they need to pay attention to the priorities of their constituents, that, to me, is equally important.”
Fisseler tried to quell the concerns during his presentation and said a resolution wasn’t the best way to communicate with the city about the concerns over the possible landfill site.
“This is an ongoing process, and a resolution seems to be finite. If you say you’re opposed to something, it implies that you’re done,” Fisseler said. “And that doesn’t invite you to the meetings where you talk about those concerns. It just doesn’t. I would say, ‘Stay engaged and work with the council on all these concerns.’”
He said the city will need a new landfill somewhere within seven years. The current one will be full within that time, and it will take about just as long to get another one up and running, which is why the city is starting the process now to find a new site, he said.
But school board officials said they haven’t heard much from the city about the plan for the landfill and they weren’t sure what other way to get their point across other than a resolution opposing that proposed landfill site.
The concern now is how to move forward with a relationship between the district and the city when it comes to future planning discussions, school board officials said.
“Waco is a huge part of our district. I share this often. We have 28,000 voters in Midway ISD, but a good third are within the (Waco) city limits,” Kazanas said. “We are a unifying voice though, in the fact that we have three (cities): Woodway, Hewitt and a large part of Waco. We’re not a town; we’re three towns and we have that, plus municipalities in Robinson and McGregor in the county that we deal with. I just want to reinforce how badly we need to be at the table for discussions.”
Waco City Council probably won’t make a decision on the landfill site until October, after a public hearing in September, and city officials are looking at every possible location, Fisseler said.
At Tuesday night’s Waco City Council meeting, city officials said they were exploring the possibility of a different location for the landfill within 15 miles of the city.
Also at the meeting, the school board also voted to increase Kazanas’ salary by $6,000 and extend his contract by a year.
Kazanas will now make to $209,497.14, and his contract now ends May 31, 2021. He’s been with Midway ISD since 2012.