At the Feb. 27 regular meeting, Leander ISD’s board of trustees approved an attendance zoning charter, which will be used to develop detailed elementary school enrollment zones that will be enacted in the 2021-22 school year.
Before the vote and during citizen comments, five LISD parents—all from the Hazelwood neighborhood near Akin Elementary School—spoke out against possible future rezoning from Aklin and frequent rezoning in the past.
To accommodate the Palmero Ridge development and overcrowding in nearby elementary schools, Nancy Tarvin Elementary School will open in Leander in August 2021. Still, Akin, Camacho, Larkspur, Mason, Parkside, Plain, Pleasant Hill, Rutledge and Whitestone Elementary schools are predicted to be at 120% capacity or greater within five years, according to the district.
All five residents who spoke were critical of the frequent rezonings that Hazelwood has experienced.
The first speaker, John Lack, said he and his family moved from Central Austin to Leander in 2016.
“The No. 1 reason why we made the move is because of the outstanding schools—specifically, Akin, ... a school we can see from our house,” said Lack, who has a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. “For the fourth time in eight years, the Hazelwood district is going to be redistricted. The new school is 30 minutes [away], round-trip.”
The second speaker, Grace Vander Laan, said she moved into Hazelwood in 2015.
“In my five years in Leander, we’ve already been in three elementary schools in my house,” she said.
Board president Trish Bode reminded the audience that the rezoning is in its early stages.
“We have not yet said what neighborhood will go to what school,” she said.
In August, a new middle school enrollment zone will take effect with the opening of Danielson Middle School in Leander.
Jimmy Disler, LISD’s chief facilities and operations officer, has worked for LISD for 34 years and said he has seen multiple enrollment rezonings at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Disler said he understands parents’ frustration, but there is not a lot the district can do in the current climate.
“In a fast-growing district, we’ve got to deal with [the growth],” he said. “In four years, there could be a whole new subdivision that could force another [rezoning].”
Trustee Jim Mackay suggested informing citizens who are considering moving into LISD of the possibility of having their school zones change. He proposed adding a button on the LISD homepage that said, “Thinking about moving here? Here are some things you should know."
Trustee Grace Barber-Jordan said a similar feature had once existed on the district website but is no longer there.
From March 12-26, LISD staff will collect community reaction to several proposed zoning scenarios. From March 27-May 1, LISD will host a minimum of two public forums. After a May 14 meeting discussing the proposed zoning changes, trustees plan to vote for the new elementary zones May 21.
From Jan. 28-Feb. 11, LISD conducted a survey in an attempt to measure the community’s priorities with regard to elementary school zone changes, according to LISD documents. The online survey, which resulted in 4,278 responses and 1,076 comments, asked people to rank a set of priorities. The top four priorities of the respondents were:
- school size: relieve overcrowding and reduce class size;
- school proximity: closeness to school, keep neighborhoods together;
- minimize change: avoid multiple rezones of students; and
- feeder patterns: keep students together as they transition to next school.
A bilingual survey was also held, drawing 157 responses and 44 comments. The top four priorities there were school proximity, feeder patterns, minimize change and school size, according to LISD.