A decade or so ago, when the UIL split up schools into five classifications and Midway was squarely situated in Class 4A, there used to be a running joke in Central Texas every time the UIL’s biennial realignment period arrived.
The punchline? The cutoff for Class 4A was Midway’s enrollment and under.
Those days are ancient history. Midway finally joined the state’s largest classification (then 5A, now 6A) in 2012, and the school district has continued to grow and prosper in the years since.
Now some have have floated the idea that perhaps Midway is getting too big. They’re suggesting a rather drastic diet. One of the more interesting nuggets to emerge from this week’s Midway ISD school board meeting was that 45 percent of participants in a district-wide survey believe that schools are overcrowded, to the point where some would like to see construction of a second high school.
When I read that news in Trib education writer Shelly Conlon’s story, I uttered a Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor grunt of surprised bemusement. Really? Say what? Two Midways? Would one be Partway?
Privately, Midway officials told me this week that it is “extremely premature” to explore the idea of two Midway ISD high schools. For Midway’s most recent UIL realignment in 2016, the district submitted an average daily enrollment of 2,410.5 for the high school. The current high school campus, built in 2003, could – by some estimations – accommodate another 500 students without too much trouble. Given Midway ISD’s current growth rate of 2-3 percent per year, it won’t be busting at the seams anytime soon.
But it’s still kind of fun to think about. What exactly would a two high-school Midway ISD look like?
Well, first, I couldn’t imagine the need to build another football stadium. Panther Stadium, which experienced its most recent renovation in 2010, could easily host two schools, in much the same way that Waco ISD Stadium does for University and Waco High. Heck, Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen remains the home field for four high schools, leading to games on both Thursday and Friday nights.
With two schools, the time-share is pretty simple. One team plays at home in Week 1, while the other ventures on the road. The following week, vice versa. Problem solved.
If Midway opted to split its district population into two schools, it certainly wouldn’t hold a 6A designation anymore. Right now, the district could divide evenly into schools of 1,200 students apiece – which would result in a pair of smallish 5A schools. (By contrast, 5A Waco High and University have average enrollments of 1,810 and 1,665, respectively.)
It might give more kids the chance to participate in athletics, which isn’t a bad thing at all. But, conversely, it would dilute the talent pool. Depending on how the boundary lines are drawn, you could end up with a “baseball school” or the “cross country school,” where one high school benefits from a unbalanced supply of talent in a particular sport. Or it might just weaken the athletic teams at both schools.
Don’t forget about the price tag for this fantasy. With two high schools, you’d create more employment opportunities, but that is accompanied by the added expense of funding all those salaries. Last time I checked, a football coach in Texas doesn’t come cheap.
It’s a fun diversion to consider what such a new school might be called. Presumably, the current Midway High School campus would maintain its name, mascot and school colors. If the new school landed somewhere in the Woodway area, might it be known as Woodway High School? Or Midway West?
Many schools will adopt the name of a prominent resident or an esteemed pioneer or politician. San Antonio Reagan, for example, is officially known as Ronald Reagan High School, in honor of the former president. Katy Taylor was christened for James E. Taylor, who served as an administrator in Katy ISD for more than 30 years.
Closer to home, of course, there’s Connally High – a lasting tribute to James T. Connally, the esteemed U.S. Army pilot who was killed in combat in 1945.
If Midway ever wanted to travel such a route with a new school, allow me to humbly suggest Howard “Kent” Bachtel High School. For all that knew him, Kent Bachtel “was Midway football,” as former coach Terry Gambill said following Bachtel’s death in 2015. More than that, Bachtel exuded the kind of can-do spirit and friendliness one would want to instill in the next generation of student leaders.
And what about a mascot? Given its proximity to SpaceX, a new high school could carry a space-themed moniker. But Robinson has already cornered the market on Rockets, so Midway wouldn’t go there. Maybe the Bachtel High Shooting Stars? The Comets? Supernovas?
Or if you wanted to pick an animal indigenous to the Hewitt/Woodway area, you could go with the Porch Swallows. (Mental note – buy BB gun on way home today.)
Of course, the debut of a new high school – if it ever comes – would arrive many years from now. Honestly, a far more realistic need for Midway ISD might be the construction of a new middle school campus. The current middle school (the former high school) off Hewitt Drive houses some 1,200 seventh and eighth grade students, and doesn’t feature much additional breathing room.
From an athletic standpoint, a second middle school would again open up a world of possibilities for Midway’s younger athletes. Currently, Midway Middle School does not cut athletes from football and track and field, but is forced to for sports with smaller rosters like volleyball and basketball. Sometimes that amounts to as many as 100 athletes who are being told, “Sorry, there’s no room for you.” So another middle school would expand the roster spots twofold. That’s good for everyone.
It’s all just speculation, though. Such ideas are years away from happening, if they take place at all. But it never hurts to be prepared.
So, what do you Midway fans in the audience think – divide and conquer, or divided we fall?