By Traci Chapman
When Mustang Public School officials began discussing a potential 2017 bond issue, one item not on the list was a second high school.
That omission has garnered a lot of comments from residents on social media, many of whom said a new high school should be a top district priority.
“I see nothing about the most important thing – new high school,” Michael Hooper posted on Facebook. “They need to get over the issue of hurting sports with the split.”
“Why isn’t a high school not listed as a new school needed – I was once told it was because then we may lose the 6A status,” agreed Danielle Swigart-Easter. “It’s a bit ridiculous to keep adding all the other grade level schools and then bottleneck them all into on high school.”
Hooper and Swigart-Easter were just two of several people debating multiple Mustang high school sites online in the wake of details about the proposed issue, unveiled last week by district officials.
The proposed $181.28 million bond issue was expected to go before a Mustang Board of Education for a vote at its November meeting. That proposal, as presently outlined, would include several additions to Mustang High School, but does not include an additional high school facility.
The issue, if passed by voters, would fund a new elementary, middle and intermediate school.
MHS, along with other district schools, continues to surge in enrollment, heading toward 3,000 students. If projections continue, officials said high school attendance could top 3,000 during the next school year and by 2019-2020 it could total 3,191, according to reports.
In 2012, the first year MHS included ninth grade in its ranks, the school had attendance of 2,558; in 2013-2014, that number increased to 2,667, the largest noted in data compiled by Mustang Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley and his staff. Last year, 2,835 students attended MHS; that number sat at 2,920 as of September, officials said.
Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel said Tuesday that while a second high school has been discussed by administrators and the district’s long-range planning committee, it didn’t make the 2017 bond potential project list.
“…It wasn’t because we thought there weren’t good reasons; I believe it boils down to preference,” the superintendent said.
Some of those involved in project discussions have voiced concerns a second high school could cause a community split, McDaniel said.
“I’ve heard many, many times how great it is that all students are Mustang Broncos from the time they enter school until they graduate,” he said. “It’s unifying.”
As outlined by school officials, the issue could go to voters in February. The district’s long-range planning committee, comprised of district, city, business and parent representatives, made several recommendations, which included the following:
• Mustang High School additions – eight classrooms and cafeteria for freshmen and a two-story science academy
• Canyon Ridge Intermediate additions – new band/band-gym area
• A new elementary school – pre-K through 4th grade
• A new intermediate school – 5th and 6th grade
• A new middle school – 7th and 8th grade
• New districtwide performing arts center
• District transportation center
• District wide improvements, such as SmartBoards, infrastructure, STEM, science equipment, devices and projectors; textbooks; land purchase for future construction; activity and route buses; HVAC needs; and, possibly, district “reoccurring costs.”
While those proposals are listed as the district’s “top priorities,” several other needs could also be on the table, depending on what board members decide. Those projects include things like parking and renovations at school sites, indoor band/athletic facilities, operations and administrative upgrades and additions, construction of new and refurbishment of tennis courts and athletic additions and upgrades.
“These are things that are still on the table but haven’t been identified as top priorities,” McDaniel told board members during their Oct. 10 meeting.
Mustang Public Schools this year topped 11,000 students. Although the current enrollment spike was not as steep as in recent years, overall increases averaged 3.2 percent per year for the 10 years ending with the 2015-2016 school year.
“District enrollment increases have run the gamut since the 2002-2003 school year, from 1 percent to 5 percent,” Mustang Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley said earlier this year.
MPS hit a milestone during the 2014-2015 school year, topping 10,000 students. That compares to 5,575 students attending Mustang schools during the 1990-1991 school year, according to reports prepared by the deputy superintendent and his staff.
More discussions about the potential issue will take place before the Nov. 14 meeting, including a planned work session, which is expected to take place sometime in the next few weeks, officials said.