If all goes according to plan, the Midway Independent School District will have a brand new elementary school in Hewitt in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year, after voters approved the district’s $148 million bond package Tuesday night.
The bond package passed with 65.49% of the vote, or 4,415 of 6,741 votes, according to unofficial election results from the McLennan County Elections Office. The school board will canvass the results Nov. 15.
Superintendent George Kazanas said Wednesday that the school district is grateful for the support the community showed with their votes. More voters cast ballots in favor of the bond issue in this election than in any previous bond election in the past two decades.
“We’re joyful and happy that our hard work has paid off, but really the fun begins now,” Kazanas said. “We have a long process ahead of us in terms of planning these new spaces and new facilities. We’re ready for that challenge ahead.”
He said there is some concern about construction labor shortages because of the high amount of construction across the state and locally, with the passage of the Cameron Park Zoo bond and West ISD’s bond Tuesday night, as well. Additionally, the renovations to the McLennan County Extraco Event Center and Baylor University’s projects may make finding local workers and contractors difficult.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Kazanas said. “Hopefully, we were very careful in our estimates from our consultants about costs. That was taken into consideration. We also took into consideration escalation fees and the inflationary index for when we go out for bids for construction of these new facilities, too.”
If the district is able to use local workers and contractors like it has before, the bond could benefit beyond Midway ISD. It could have an economic impact of $252.7 million for McLennan County, according to an assessment prepared by Terry L. Clower of T. Clower & Associates.
School board President Pete Rusek said many people did a lot of hard work to get this bond package passed and they deserve the credit. Now, the district can accommodate its burgeoning enrollment, as most of the bond funds will go toward creating more student capacity in schools.
“Anybody who looks at student performance will tell you physical facilities are important,” Rusek said. “Growth is a good thing for school districts, but at some point, you need to expand the facilities, and that’s where we are.”
The first step for the district is to consult its financial adviser and determine the best time to sell bonds.
The school board called the bond election after a district facility study committee recommended one to address the needs of the growing school district.
The district of about 8,200 students is expected to surge to 10,700 in 10 years, according to the facility committee’s estimates.
Kazanas said the district plans to continue a process it enacted years ago of involving community members and staff. This year, he also wants to get input from students on classroom design.
The superintendent also anticipates seeking public input when the new elementary school is built in Hewitt and the district adjusts its attendance zones. When the work is done, Midway will have eight elementary schools instead of six. The new school will either be built next to Warren Park on Old Temple Road or on Ritchie Road near the Hewitt water tower.
At the same time the district prepares to sell bonds, it will be working with an architectural firm to begin planning the design and construction phases of the facilities, Kazanas said.
The first priority is to address growth at the elementary level by building the new school in Hewitt, he said. Midway ISD will eliminate both intermediate schools and convert River Valley Intermediate in McGregor into a middle school and Woodgate Intermediate in Waco into an elementary school to help manage the enrollment growth, as well.
Once those facilities are completed, the district can start renovating Midway Middle School, Kazanas said. The earliest that project could begin would be in spring 2022, with a tentative schedule of having the elementary school built and intermediate schools converted by fall 2022.
“I can’t start renovating Midway Middle School until I have River Valley Middle School opened because I have to move kids out so I have space,” Kazanas said. “There’s no room right now, with 1,330 kids there, to renovate.”
The district plans to have school in Woodgate Intermediate while it is being converted into an elementary school. Kazanas said that would be a “tricky challenge” that the school will work through.
Another potential benefit of the bond is traffic relief. By adding an elementary school and middle school and eliminating intermediate schools, Midway ISD expects to see less traffic. The increase from six elementary schools to eight should reduce traffic because schools will be closer to neighborhoods. The elimination of intermediate schools will result in fewer drop-off locations for parents with children enrolled at different campuses, and the addition of a middle school may help ease traffic on Hewitt Drive, where the only middle school is now located.
The bond-funded career and technical education addition to Midway High School could begin at any time because it does not depend on the completion of any other bond projects, although it is tentatively set to start in spring 2022. Kazanas said because the project is an addition it will not interrupt regular school business.
Currently, about 90% of Midway High School’s 2,435 students are enrolled in CTE courses, according to the district. Many courses reach enrollment capacity and close because so many students want to take them.