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Midlanders pass $1.4 billion school bond, the largest in the community’s history

At the end of a school day, student exit Midland High School which has served generations of teenagers for around 95 years.
Mitch Borden
Marfa Public Radio
At the end of a recent school day, students exit Midland High School which has served generations of teenagers for around 95 years.

Education advocates in Midland celebrated Tuesday night as the news came in that voters had passed the school district’s staggering $1,415,400,000 school bond that will transform public education in the Permian Basin city.

“Two things happened this week that I didn't think I would ever see,” said Stan VanHoozer, chair of the pro-bond political action committee Energize Midland Schools. “The Texas Rangers won the World Series and then Midland passed a bond to build two new high schools."

Over 22,000 people turned out to vote in the bond election, according to unofficial election night results. Of the turnout, about 56% of Midlanders voted to pass the initiative — a milestone in the Tall City, where voters for years have been hesitant to approve costly school bonds.

VanHoozer, a former Midland Independent School District principal, said this bond was decades in the making. It will fund the construction of campuses to replace Midland High and Legacy High, the community’s primary comprehensive high schools, which are both over 60 years old.

“To now know that we've got a future with schools built for the 21st century for our kids is just awesome,” he said.

The bond will also construct a new elementary campus in northeast Midland. And existing district facilities will be converted into two additional middle schools. These new campuses are being built to relieve years of overcrowding that’s plagued Midland ISD.

In a statement released by the district, Midland ISD Superintendent Stephanie Howard said, “Thank you to the Midland community for recognizing the importance of investing in our children's education and their future. In Midland ISD, we are truly educating the future.“

Going into Election Day, it wasn’t clear whether the bond proposal would be successful. With an organized opposition on top of the community’s spotty history with school bonds it could have gone either way. In 2019, the last school bond brought by the district narrowly failed by 26 votes.

Prior to this election, voters have only passed four out of the 10 bond propositions brought by the district since 2000. The last major investment in secondary schools was in 2003, and since then the district’s two high schools have become overcrowded.

The district has seen major growth in the last decade as Midland’s population has increased significantly with the fracking boom in the Permian Basin.

According to the district, the new high schools will account for future population growth in the community. The new campuses will also be the key for Midland ISD to reconfigure its grades.

The district plans, once construction is completed, to integrate ninth graders into its comprehensive high schools — closing its freshman-only campuses. Sixth grade will also be absorbed by junior high campuses, freeing up space at elementary schools where sixth graders currently attend.

Benefits of this reorganization, according to a Midland ISD press release, include “expansion of advanced coursework, electives and lessen travel time.”

The tentative schedule for building Midland ISD’s three new campuses is set to begin next year. The district’s new elementary school is set to open in 2025 and, if everything goes as planned, the two new comprehensive high schools will be ready for students in 2028.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.