9 Leander ISD schools needed in next 6 years for attendance growth, report says

The Leander ISD board of trustees received the annual demographic report Oct. 22. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Leander ISD board of trustees received the annual demographic report Oct. 22. (Sally Grace Holtgrieve/Community Impact Newspaper)

As the fastest-growing school district in the Austin metro, Leander ISD needs at least one new school per year for the next six school years, according to a district report.

The annual demographic update recommended seven elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in a long-range plan, according to an Oct. 22 report from demographics firm Population and Survey Analysts. It is possible an elementary, middle and high school will need to open in the 2025-26 school year.

Superintendent Bruce Gearing said the cost of building the back-to-back schools is not as concerning as the maintenance and operations costs such as hiring staff.

“When you have nine schools in six years, that is challenging,” he said.

The report also considered how COVID-19 affected the district’s enrollment. The district started the current school year about 2,200 students below projections. Most lost students were in elementary grades, which is a similar trend among other Texas districts, the report said.

“It will be interesting, once vaccinations are available, to see if students trickle back into the districts,” demographer Pat Guseman said.

There are about 40,000 students enrolled in the 2020-21 school year, and the district could add about 10,000 to 16,000 more students in the next 10 years.

One elementary school is recommended each year through the 2026-27 school year with two schools needed in 2023-24. All elementary school projects are in the northern area of the district. Despite declines in elementary school enrollment, the report still recommends opening Elementary School No. 29 in north Leander for the next school year.

“Plain and Larkspur are already full and with the amount of new growth happening in that part of the district,” PASA President Stacey Tepera said.

Middle School No. 10 is recommended to open in either 2024-25 or 2025-26. The largest growth is in the newly opened Danielson Middle School area, Tepera said. While northern district areas are growing, the report projects Four Points, Cedar Park, Four Points and Henry middle schools either decrease in students or marginally grow in the next 10 years.

High School No. 7 is recommended for 2025-26. Attendance zones for any of the recommended high schools are not determined yet.

Projected growth areas, which are based on housing projects, are in the Travisso, Greatwood, Lackey, Devine Lake, Deerbrooke, Orchard Ridge, Larkspur, Bryson, Palmera Ridge and Palmera Bluff neighborhoods. Multiple upcoming mixed-use developments, such as Northline, Bell Boulevard redevelopment, Leander Springs and Indigo Ridge, were also considered in the district’s data.

Nearly 40,000 housing occupancies, including single-family housing, multifamily housing and other housing types, are expected through 2030. As of 2020, the school district is about 67% built out, per the report.

Leander ISD is the seventh-fastest-growing district among large Texas districts. The report considered projected enrollment, housing development and housing trends in its presentation to the board of trustees.

Board members and officials said now is the time to talk about how growth is affecting the district vision. Gearing said honest conversations need to happen to help fulfill hopes and dreams for the students while planning for the future. Virtual academy, partnerships with Austin Community College and other exploratory school types were also mentioned.

“I think this really becomes a community conversation,” Gearing said.
By Taylor Girtman

Reporter, Cedar Park and Leander

Taylor Girtman became the reporter for the Cedar Park-Leander edition in February 2020. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida.