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Midway picks Ritchie Road site in Hewitt for new, largest elementary school

Midway picks Ritchie Road site in Hewitt for new, largest elementary school

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Midway Independent School District plans to build its largest elementary school yet in Hewitt off Ritchie Road, along a growing corridor where local experts expect to see continued development.

The new $38.5 million elementary school is part of a $148 million bond package Midway ISD voters approved in November, which also includes facility upgrades for the high school’s career and technical education program, and renovations to three other schools.

If all goes according to plan, Midway ISD will have a brand new, 104,823-square-foot elementary school in time for the 2022-23 school year, ready to welcome about 750 students, district Maintenance and Transportation Director Buddy Freeman said. It will be built on the east side of Ritchie, near a Hewitt water tower and between West Warren Street and Park Place Drive.

The Midway ISD board called for the bond election last year after the facility study committee recommended a bond to build and renovate campuses to address the needs of the growing school district. The bond package as passed included building a new elementary school, eliminating intermediate schools and repurposing the buildings, as well as renovating Midway Middle School.

The school district of about 8,200 students is expected to surge to 10,700 in 10 years, according to the facility committee’s estimates.

While the school board has not settled on a final design, the new elementary school will be about 20,000 square feet larger than Castleman Creek Elementary, the newest elementary school in the district, and have two stories. The property for the new school backs up to Hewitt Park, and the other end of the park extends to the Castleman Creek Elementary School property.

The new facility will be Midway’s seventh elementary school.

Construction is slated to start in either January or February and be completed in April 2022, Freeman said.

Some features in the preliminary design include flexible learning environments in which teachers can combine their classes in “collaboration spaces” that connect classrooms, marker boards that are 6 feet high and 8 feet wide so students and teachers can write on them, and a sink and storage units in every classroom for both students and teachers. The two-story library will have a makerspace, flexible furniture and plenty of light coming in through windows.

Freeman said the district already owned two parcels of land before the bond passed that could have been used for the new elementary school. The other piece of land is off Old Temple Road, but when district officials looked at where the growth in the school district’s attendance zone is concentrated, they settled on the Ritchie Road location. Midway will redraw attendance zones after the school is built and the other school renovations are complete.

The Park Meadows subdivision is the biggest housing development in the Hewitt area, Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Chris Evila said. The developers plan to build about 700 homes there, with the potential for more, and other subdivisions along the Ritchie Road corridor are in the works that could result in almost 2,000 new homes in the area.

“It’s a rapidly growing area. There’s been a lot of new subdivisions that have gone into that Ritchie Road corridor the last several years,” he said. “I see why Midway is building a new elementary school out there.”

Evila said the MPO identified the Ritche Road corridor in Hewitt and Woodway as “one of the fastest growing areas” for development more than 25 years ago, consistently seeing the need to update transportation infrastructure there to keep up with the expansion.

“This is consistent with what we’ve been anticipating,” he said.

But like with almost anything during the coronavirus pandemic, it is unclear how COVID-19 will affect the housing market long-term, Evila said. The area’s growth could stagnate or explode, depending on the market conditions.

“We don’t know what COVID is going to do to the long-term housing market,” he said. “The housing market right now is still fairly hot, but will that change? That’s the big questions a lot of folks are asking right now.”

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