MIDLAND, Texas — Monday is the first day of early voting. In Midland, people have a few important decisions to make – including voting for a new mayor and likely changing the face of city council.
People will also decide whether or not to approve a $569-million bond for Midland ISD. That’s more than half a billion dollars to go towards rebuilding and re-purposing secondary campuses.
That’s a lot of money – is it worth it?
In part one of a NewsWest 9 special report, our cameras go inside one of the high schools the district says is running out of room and fast.
Mr. Rust and his class are spending the period crunching numbers. It’s economics – they’re using those numbers to figure out how to distribute goods.
Let’s try this equation on for size: in this case, our goods are students and if there are more students than seats…what do you do?
“We have a few who sit in chairs and one who sits in the teacher chair. They pull it around so they can all work with another student. They kind of have to share a desktop,” Mr. Rust said.
It’s a daily classroom equation for Owen Rust: figure out where to put every student.
“They’re kind of jammed in there,” he said.
How many are in this class, you ask? 48 – that’s Rust’s biggest class this semester. Rust juggles at least 30 students for every class period.
Packed rosters aren't just an issue in AP classes, like Rust's 2nd period. The district has large classes throughout core subjects as well. The district states 28 of 46 traditional chemistry classes have at least 30 students. Another example can be found in English classes. Eleven of the 50 traditional English classes have rosters 30 and larger.
Another challenge brought forth because of large rosters: technology. No perks of the 21st century in these classrooms. Most of the learning includes putting literal pen to paper.
“A chrome book cart usually has 30 laptops on it. When you have 40+ students in a class, tracking more than one cart down is near impossible,” he said. “Then trying to get all students to the same website and on task is really time consuming.”
Call it growing pains; you’ll find packed classrooms at most secondary campuses across Midland ISD.
Those numbers will only go up, according to district data.
By 2028, 6,800 students are expected to be enrolled at Lee and Midland High. That’s 39.5% growth in facilities that are already over capacity.
Both Midland and Lee High facilities are designed to hold 2,200 students. As of Friday, Midland High had 2,324 students enrolled and Lee has 2,305.
Another factor to large classes is the fact that the district is working with fewer teachers. There are 144 teacher vacancies – 48 of them are for secondary campuses. Three-percent of the classes are forced to merge with other classes due to lack of a teacher. 80-percent are covered by full-time subs. The remaining 17-percent are covered either by part-time subs, teachers picking up extra classes, or instructional specialists filling in as teachers.
If nothing changes, you can expect large rosters for a long time.
“It creates a lot of pressure to ensure those 40-something students have the tools and attention to succeed,” he said.
On top of that, Rust is the department chair for social studies. Meaning he spends a lot of time working on logistics. Who can teach what class and when. With more students and strained resources, he has found his department is limited on what classes they can offer.
“That’s a challenge when for AP Economics, we can only offer a 2nd, 3rd and 4th,” he said.
Just a certain number of seats – that’s a line administrators are all too familiar with at the Career and Technology Center.
“It fills up fast,” Kim Evans, Career and Technology Director said.
Name the line of work, Evans says they offer classes on it.
“Kids can do hands-on training anywhere from culinary to ag, welding to auto-tech, health sciences, we do a little of everything,” Evans said.
It’s no wonder it fills up fast. NewsWest 9 got a look inside one of the health sciences classes – students are getting hands-on experience being a certified nurse’s assistant.
Evans says they’d like to be able to grow each of their programs, but they can’t do that without more room.
“There’s a lot of need across the district as far as facilities to accommodate the growth because Midland is growing,” she said.
Reality is, the district is running out of space. Their solution right now is to utilize portable buildings.
There are 134 portable classrooms in use around the district. 76 of them are on secondary campuses. Right now, the district says 2,000 secondary students are learning in this type of classroom.
No matter where they teach or how many names are on their roster, teachers, like Rust, have a job to do.
“You see 40 kids on the roster, you know that you’re going to do your best for all 40 of them,” he said.
The best solution for growing problem.
Here’s a breakdown of what is included in the bond package:
$342-million would be used to rebuild both Midland and Lee High Schools at new locations.
$98-million would go towards repurposing the current Lee High School campus into a third different high school.
$65-million would be spent to repurpose the current Midland High campus into San Jacinto Middle School and a 6th-12th academy.
The district would spend $59-million to convert each of the current junior highs into middle schools, serving students in 6th through 8th grades.
The remaining $5-million would go towards repurposing the current SJ campus into a young women’s leadership academy.
If this bond passes – how will that impact your wallet? If your home is valued at $300,000 – you can expect to pay $5.29 more a month in property taxes.
Learn more about the bond here:
People both for and against the bond proposal have been outspoken on this issue since the district called for the election in July. Those for the proposition say now is the right time to make changes to the district.
Those against say the district must make strides to close performance gaps and hire more teachers before focus can be put on new buildings. NewsWest 9 will hear from both groups in part 2 of its special report.