Editor’s note: This article has been updated to better reflect school capacity once Elementary School No. 30 opens.

Leander ISD may open its first early childhood center in 2025 to relieve growth in the northern portion of the district.

What’s happening?

District officials presented a recommendation from the Long-Range Planning Committee to build an early childhood center to relieve overcapacity in the district’s northern elementary schools at a Sept. 21 meeting. The $60 million center would open at a district-owned site off Halsey Drive for the 2025-26 school year, LISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing said.

The plan would also allow the district to consider repurposing two of its underutilized elementary campuses in Cedar Park to serve as new locations for the Leander Extended Opportunity Center and New Hope High School. The old LEO Center could then be repurposed into a second early childhood center.

These early childhood centers would be solely dedicated to offering prekindergarten services currently available at 18 of the district’s elementary schools, district officials said. The district may also consider providing its programs for parents and student-parents of children 5 and under at the center, Gearing said.

“What the research says is that 90% of brain development occurs from birth to 5 years old,” LISD Chief of Staff Sarah Grissom said. “We definitely want to invest in our earliest learners.”

How we got here

Uneven growth in the northern part of the district has led to capacity concerns at many elementary schools.

Projections for next school year based on current schools show Plain, Larkspur, Camacho and Pleasant Hill elementary schools at least 20% overcapacity. Once Elementary School No. 30 opens next year, only Camacho will be overcapacity by over 20%; however, some elementary schools will still be at or slightly over capacity, projections show.

After considering three options to further address the growth, the committee developed its own fourth option combining approaches from Option 1 to repurpose elementary schools for the LEO Center and New Hope High School and repurpose LEO as an early childhood center, and Option 2 to build an early childhood center off Halsey Drive.

The hybrid option would provide the fastest relief for northern elementary school campuses and give the district more time to consider repurposing elementary schools and the LEO Center, which would require additional bond funding, district officials said. The district could pivot away from repurposing Cedar Park elementary schools if there was pushback from those campuses, Gearing said.

What they’re saying

“I appreciate that this isn’t locking us into any one plan because so much can shift, communities shift, what the communities want shifts,” Place 6 Board Member Francesca Romans said. “This is allowing us to truly move with the district as it evolves and gets bigger, and I really, really appreciate all of the work that went into this.”

What else?

The district plans to open four new elementary schools over the next 10 years. Elementary School No. 30 will open next school year to relieve Bagdad and Plain elementary schools, with Elementary School No. 31 opening the following year.

Stay tuned

The board will vote on the committee’s recommendation at an Oct. 5 meeting, Grissom said.