It was standing-room only at the Jan. 19 Round Rock ISD board of trustees meeting as parents, students and community members waited to share their story about how proposed boundary changes could alter their lives.
Several parents and students held up signs showing their support for current district feeder patterns that could be disrupted by boundary changes. Signs that read “Keep GOE at RRHS,” “GO =RTW,” and “VA at Wells Branch” in large font could be spotted throughout the Round Rock High School lecture hall where the meeting took place.
Before going into details about the process the Citizen’s Boundary Committee went through to create their recommendation, Committee Chair Tom McDonald emphasized the goal was to relieve Cedar Ridge High School of overcrowding and establish attendance boundaries for Elsa England Elementary—scheduled to open in fall 2012—while impacting the smallest number of students possible.
The committee’s recommendation for 2012–13 boundary changes to the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees was to approve the district’s proposal with the following modifications:
Allow high school students to remain at their high school regardless of the boundary change. The high school boundary changes would impact about 120 current current eighth graders.
Boundaries for Elsa England Elementary School that include the area proposed by the district with the addition of the Highland Horizon area. The Morningside and Davis Springs neighborhoods would move from Sommer Elementary School to England Elementary School, and the Highland Horizon neighborhood would move from Deep Wood Elementary School to England Elementary. Current fourth graders would be allowed to remain at their current campus for the fifth grade.
In addition, the committee supported transfer policies that encourage improved enrollment balance for the elementary and high schools affected.
McDonald said the committee arrived at its recommendation after conducting a survey and analyzing community feedback, touring schools that would be affected and hosting public hearings and workshop meetings.
About 35 students ranging from elementary to high school age and parents from throughout Round Rock ISD protested boundary changes that would affect them personally.
Meredith Denton-Hedrick, a Brushy Creek–area parent, said three years ago parents “begged” the board not to move a group of students from Great Oaks Elementary—which feeds into McNeil High School—to Round Rock High School.
“We have embraced Round Rock High School. We don’t want to be moved back to McNeil. My fifth-grade son considers himself a Dragon,” Hendrick said. “If he goes to McNeil, he will be separated from his sister and his friends from band.”
Michael Farris, a Wells Branch parent, talked about how the same group of students have been affected by boundary changes in the last few years.
“I have not moved, but this will be our third high school in the last three years,” he said.
Cedar Ridge freshman Jordan Farris shared the personal effect boundary changes have had on him in the past.
“I remember going to Cedar Ridge freshman orientation and how shocking it was because I had to do it all on my own. My grades suffered,” he said. “I lingered in the locker room because I didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch.”
Several parents and students shared similar stories where students were eating their lunch in the bathroom because they did not know anyone at their school and how changing schools adversely affected their grades.
Board member Terri Romere said making decisions regarding boundary changes can be challenging because it can be an emotionally charged issue. It pits “neighbors against neighbors and friends against friends,” she said.
Romere said before any decision could be made, the board needed to have accurate student projection numbers. She cited a problem the district found after the final committee meeting and said a revised projection was not sent out until the night prior to the meeting.
Romere was referring to a change for the years 2012 through 2014, with numbers changed by fewer than 25 students. For 2015, the revised numbers were higher by 50 to 100 students for every school year under all plans.
Committee members who voted to recommend the district plan were shown the updated estimate and asked if the revised projection would cause them to reconsider their vote. All of them said their vote would not change.
Romere said boundary changes could not be made “based on flawed and incomplete information.”
“I want to clarify that what we’re talking about here is a very small error,” Superintendent Jesus Chavez said, adding that one of the reasons for boundary changes is to balance the number of students at schools across the district so that all students have access to the same quality of education.
“When I first came to this district, each high school was its own learning community. There were a lot of problems with better things happening over here and worse things happening over there,” Chavez said. “We want the same quality happening at all our schools. We want equity and excellence at all of our schools.”
Colby said boundary changes will always be a possibility for a growing district.
“If there’s a little righteous indignation [referring to speakers during the comments portion], it’s because they’re caught up in something that they didn’t feel they had a heads-up on,” he said.
The board is expected to take action on the committee’s boundary change recommendation at the Feb. 16 meeting.
To view the committee’s presentation on its recommendation to the board, visit http://www.roundrockisd.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=37246