Round Rock ISD trustees heard a final staff recommendation Thursday that would redraw attendance boundaries for four middle schools ahead of the 2017-18 opening of Pearson Ranch Middle School.
The recommendation changes several aspects of an initial proposal presented to trustees in September. The board will vote on the boundary changes during its next regular meeting Nov. 17.
Corey Ryan, RRISD's director of communications and community relations, said in developing changes district staff tried to keep as many students as possible at schools within their neighborhood and reduce the number of elementary schools in the district that split their graduating students between two middle schools.
However, acknowledging the controversy among some parents unhappy with RRISD's intent to redraw the boundaries, Ryan said all available options include positives and negatives.
"There’s no perfect plan for setting boundaries," he said. "Unfortunately, there are going to be people unhappy with whatever we do.”
Key changes to the district's initial plan include:
- Fern Bluff Elementary School would continue sending students to Chisholm Trail Middle School.
- Old Town Elementary School students would move onto Walsh Middle School. District officials initially proposed to have some Old Town students move on to Walsh while others would instead go to Chisholm Trail.
- The neighborhood of Northwoods at Avery Ranch, apartment complexes around Parmer Lane east of U.S. 183 and neighborhoods that are part of Forest North Elementary’s attendance area would become part of the area within Pearson Ranch Middle School’s new boundaries.
- RRISD’s Joe Lee Johnson STEAM and Wells Branch Arts Integration academies would be part of Deerpark Middle School’s boundary area.
RRISD recommends Pearson Ranch take students from Anderson Mill, Elsa England, Forest North, Patsy Sommer and Purple Sage elementary schools, then send students to McNeil High School.
The district has posted a map online showing proposed updated to the boundaries.
The proposal has upset some parents, with a majority of those who responded to an RRISD online survey about the plan stating they oppose changes. RRISD ran a public review from Sept. 16-Oct. 13 that included the survey as well as three public forums.
Most people giving comments during the public forums opposed elements of the district’s proposal, according to RRISD. Chief concerns included changes to the demographic makeup of the Chisholm Trail student body, the safety of students who walk, ride bikes or take buses to school, and the disruption of existing feeder patterns between RRISD’s elementary and middle schools, according to the district.
Several parents at Thursday's meeting expressed concern that Pearson Ranch Middle School would see overcrowding soon after it opens, noting the number of elementary schools under the updated proposal that will send students to the new school.
Ryan said that Pearson Ranch Middle School, which would have initial enrollment of about 900 students, would see its student body grow but would not reach capacity within the first five years of its operation.
Changes would affect boundaries for the Cedar Valley, Chisholm Trail, Deerpark and Walsh middle schools. The proposal would not change attendance boundaries for RRISD's elementary and high schools.
District officials said redraws are necessary to make room for Pearson Ranch, which will be RRISD's 11th middle school, and to also relieve overcrowding elsewhere.
Trustee Paul Tisch, the school district board president, said during Thursday's meeting that the board wants parents’ voices to be heard in the decision, but he said some of the emails he has received from critics of the plan contained misconceptions about the district’s proposal and accusatory rhetoric directed at trustees. He asked those in attendance to not allow school boundaries to divide parents against one another.
“This school district unites us as a community,” Tisch said. “The great equalizer for our children is their education. Let’s not forget that.”
Pearson Ranch Middle School is scheduled to open in time for the 2017-18 school year on Pearson Ranch Road next to Elsa England Elementary School and RRISD’s Transportation West Center. The middle school will also be next to the site of RRISD High School No. 6.