MISD broaches a possible bond vote

Need for 3 new elementaries, new middle school to address growth presented in special meeting

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Heritage High School opened new classroom wings to students last week as they returned to school from the holidays. The HHS expansion was the final item on the 2016 bond issue approved by MISD voters, and the district has begun to consider the next bond referendum, with a November target date.

How to handle continual growth is an evergreen issue within Midlothian ISD, and trustees were given a fairly stout dose of the future last week in a special board meeting at the L.A. Mills Administration Building.

Assistant superintendent for finance and operations Jim Norris brought the board up to date with a presentation on future bond referendum packages that will need voter approval to address growth in the next decade.

Norris presented a timeline for a bond referendum this November to go before voters to address dire future needs. The size and overall scope of the proposal will be fleshed out over the next few months.

The last MISD bond vote was in 2016, Norris said, which is culminating in the current expansion of Heritage High School. Norris said everything that was promised in the last bond vote was delivered, including the MILE, the Roesler Athletic Complex at MHS, and the new Dieterich Middle School among numerous projects. He added that MISD has paid bonded debt off early and reduced the district’s interest and sinking tax rate.

“Because of the decisions you guys have made and the voters made in 2016, we’re in great shape right now,” Norris told the board. “We’ve got room for kids in a lot of our buildings. But we won’t in some buildings soon, in the next couple of years.”

Future demographic data projections have remained consistent, and MISD will soon be in need of additional campuses that will require funding, Norris told the board. The onset of COVID-19 slowed growth in the district for about a year, but with vaccines and the lifting of some restrictions, the growth rate has bounced back with a vengeance.

Norris said the district is looking at “a steep, steady climb” in enrollment growth in the next 10 years. The district is projected to grow from its current 10,000 enrollment to about 15,000 by about 2032. That translates to three new elementary schools, a new middle school and space for about 1,600 new high schoolers by then, Norris told trustees.

One of the new elementary schools, Jean Coleman Elementary, will open in August, and Norris noted the school’s opening will relieve growth at neighboring schools. However, Elementary No. 9 will be needed by August 2025 and No. 10 by August 2028, he added. A fourth MISD middle school with a capacity of 1,200 students will also be needed by 2028, Norris said.

Other existing campuses would need extensive renovations, Norris said, including the three oldest existing elementaries — Longbranch, J.A. Vitovsky and Mountain Peak.

Supply chain disruptions have been improving but could impact future construction, pushing the timeline of future projects earlier, Norris said. A project that previously took 18 months could take two full years, he warned.

As far as high school growth, Norris said the district has options, including a third comprehensive high school by 2028, or a career and technical campus or alternative high school.

Board president Gary Vineyard and board vice president Andrea Walton participated in the special meeting virtually. Board secretary Matt Sanders presided over the meeting in their physical absence. No action on agenda items was taken.

The board will next meet in its regular monthly session this Monday, Jan. 17.

Other items

• The board received a presentation on the MISD SuperFan app from Dr. Ron Bland, MISD’s director of engagement. The app provides notices of district events, including sports, fine arts performances and meetings; and also allows users the opportunity to accumulate points for rewards.

• The board heard an update on COVID-19 cases within the district, which are on the upswing because of the omicron variant. The district had 43 active cases last week, a 51-percent increase from just before the Christmas holiday, lead district nurse Wendy Hein said. The Curative testing kiosk at MISD Multipurpose Stadium is capable of administering 375 tests per day by appointment, she added.

• Dr. Greg Gibson, executive director of the Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools, provided an overview of the district balanced scorecard for trustees.

• Following an executive session, the board took no public action.