RRISD construction team discusses Middle School No.11

Middle School No.11 is being constructed next to Elsa England Elementary School on Pearson Ranch Road.

Middle School No.11 is being constructed next to Elsa England Elementary School on Pearson Ranch Road.

Residents of Brushy Creek and Avery Ranch neighborhoods worry a new Round Rock ISD middle school and a future high school on Pearson Ranch Road will exacerbate a traffic situation many say is already dangerous for school children.

RRISD’s Construction and Community Relations teams hosted a community meeting about the construction of the district’s 11th middle school April 5 at Brushy Creek MUD on Great Oaks Drive in Round Rock.

Middle School No. 11 is scheduled to open in August 2017, next to Elsa England Elementary School.

RRISD Chief Operating Officer Bob Cervi said the team planned to meet with architecture firms on April 6 to begin the design process for a new RRISD high school, which will be located either on Pearson Ranch or at a site near the intersection of Old Settlers Blvd. and A.W. Grimes Blvd. in Round Rock.

Cervi said the district would first design the high school, then set a bond election, likely in 2017, to let voters decide whether to fund construction.

Construction Department Director Tim Strucely said if funding for the high school were approved, it could open its doors in August 2019.

Residents in attendance said traffic on Pearson Ranch is “a disaster” now, with only Elsa England located on the road.

Strucely said the district is working with Williamson County to install crosswalks, traffic signals and appropriate speed limits to make the area safer.

Williamson County is widening Neenah to become a four-lane, rather than a two-lane roadway.

Senior Project Manager Barry Sikes said when Neenah Avenue opens it will ease traffic congestion on Pearson Ranch.

“[The opening of] Neenah is imminent,” Strucely said. “It could happen any day now.”

The county is also working to extend Pearson Ranch to RM 620, Sikes said.

One resident said a traffic signal, rather than a four-way stop sign, is needed on Avery Ranch Blvd.—which is owned by the city of Austin—where Patsy Sommer Elementary School is located, at the intersection of Pearson Ranch.

Strucely said the city of Austin has said there is not enough traffic at that intersection to justify a signal.

“As these schools come online, we’re trying to get [Austin] to do better,” he said.

Paul Tisch, president of RRISD board of trustees attended the meeting. He said while Williamson County is very responsive to the district’s concerns, the city of Austin is more difficult to work with.

Tisch also said the district should wait until road and school construction are complete before trying to solve traffic problems that residents predict will happen as a result of the new school.

“We don’t know what the traffic patterns are [yet],” he said.

Tisch said the only thing anyone knows for certain is Pearson Ranch will be very busy during school drop-off and pick-up times.

Middle School No.11 aims to alleviate overcrowding at Walsh and Cedar Valley middle schools, said Maritza Gallaga, RRISD associate director of communications and community relations.

Cervi said district officials would recommend an attendance zone for Middle School No.11 to the board at its October meeting, and community hearings would take place in November. The board would likely vote on an attendance zone at its December meeting, he said.

Trustee Terri Romere, who also attended the meeting, said when a new middle school opens eighth grade students within the new attendance zone are typically allowed to opt out of transferring to the new school, but ultimately the board will decide whether students can be grandfathered in to their existing middle school.

Strucely said the new middle school building is based on the same prototype used for Walsh and Ridgeview middle schools, but in addition, Middle School No.11 will have a dance studio inside the building as well as additional storage and rehearsal space in the fine arts wing.

“It’s all part of learning from previous schools to make this design better,” Sikes said.

Trustees voted to approve a $34.2 million construction contract to Bartlett Cocke General Contractors for the project in November 2015. Voters approved $49.8 million for construction of the school in the 2014 bond election.