School district begins elementary rezoning

School district begins elementary rezoningLeander ISD officials are in the process of rezoning the district’s elementary school boundaries ahead of completion of its 26th elementary campus and are examining ways to maximize building capacities through uses including specialty campuses.


By the beginning of summer, LISD’s board of trustees is expected to approve the attendance zone boundaries, and trustees plan to continue discussing how to make the most of underutilized campuses and classrooms in the future.


In March the board began discussing possible attendance-zone scenarios, and the website for elementary rezoning went live. As of May 12, the site has received 9,382 visits, said Jimmy Disler, LISD’s senior executive director of operations.


Because of new home communities and an increasing number of new Cedar Park and Leander residents, trustees said it is important to study rezoning beyond Elementary School No. 26, which will be located in front of Stiles Middle School on Barley Road in Leander. The campus opens in August 2017. 


“[We are looking at] zoning for [Elementary School] No. 26 but also what are we going to do when buildings get to a certain capacity,” Disler said. “We really want to tie down what the goals are of the board for the future.”



Rezoning recommendations


The district’s process for rezoning starts with administration developing possible scenarios and presenting them to the board. Disler, along with LISD administration, presented two scenarios at a March board meeting—Scenario A and Scenario B.


Trustees discussed both scenarios but ultimately approved Scenario A as the option to bring to the community.


Before trustees approve a final rezoning, Disler and his staff sought community input at public meetings on May 9 and May 10 at two different campus locations along with the website. Administration will then adjust the scenarios as needed based on the public’s feedback. 


“We make note of all the feedback we get and try [to accommodate people],” he said. “You might have five people that say they like [the proposed zones], but one person says they don’t like it. … The general consensus of that neighborhood says, yes they like it, but [we try to see if] is there anything we can do that would bring the other person along to support it, too.”


The last time LISD rezoned for elementary schools was in 2014, when it approved a scenario to accommodate Camacho Elementary School, which opened in August 2015.


According to Population and Survey Analysts, or PASA, Parkside Elementary School is the first LISD elementary school projected to be at capacity in 2017. Plain, Pleasant Hill and Whitestone elementary campuses are also among the schools in the coming years expected to need relief. PASA assists Texas school districts in planning for long-range utilization of schools with student enrollment projections, according to PASA.


PASA also projects enrollment growth and decline in areas that have no new construction potential by studying which neighborhoods are regenerating with younger families, according to PASA.


The rezoning process is intended to relieve Parkside first, according to board documents. However, the process could also provide relief to other elementary campuses.


One of the challenges the district faces is “finding the balance of relieving campuses while considering the timeline of future building needs,” according to board documents.


“It is sometimes difficult to find a path that eliminates the need to rezone a particular neighborhood code twice in a short period of time,” the document states.


If Scenario A is approved:


• Students residing in the Cold Springs and Hazelwood neighborhoods would move from Pleasant Hill Elementary School to Elementary School No. 26.


• Students residing in the Catalina Ranch, Pecan Creek, Caballo Ranch, Vista Oaks East and West, and Mayfield Ranch neighborhoods would move from Parkside Elementary School to Elementary School No. 26.


• Students residing in the Brushy Bend Park, Great Oaks, Spanish Oak Terrace, and Sweet Farms neighborhoods would move from Reagan Elementary School to Elementary School No. 26.


• Some students residing in the Oak Grove Road, Savanna Ranch and Mockingbird Hill neighborhoods would move from Plain Elementary School to Elementary School No. 26.


• Some current Plain Elementary School students in Oak Grove Road, Savanna Ranch and Mockingbird Hill would move to Bagdad Elementary School.


• Additionally, current Whitestone Elementary School students residing in the Mason Creek II and Merritt Legacy Apartments would move to Camacho Elementary School.


However, Scenario A is subject to change based on public feedback.


“I think [Scenario A] really sets up for the growth in the northeast,” Disler said at the April 21 board meeting.



Future uses of campuses


In March trustees began debating the goal of the attendance zoning discussion, which included bringing each school to equal capacity, utilizing all desks before new schools are built and the rezoning’s effect on families.


Trustee Aaron Johnson said the district should study the district’s enrollment data as well as ways to utilize some of its under-enrolled campuses.


Board Vice President Pam Waggoner said a possible use could be for a specialty program campus.


“We have to look at who is likely to attend [a specialty campus] and how would it meet the objectives that we are trying to accomplish,” Johnson said. “[Attendance rezoning is] about not building schools faster than we need to but building them when we need them or just before.”


Superintendent Bret Champion said studying the community’s needs and then studying ways to address those desires may be a productive way to move forward with the process.


“It’s such a much bigger conversation [than attendance rezoning],” Waggoner said. “What problem are we trying to solve if it’s a problem? And then you have to develop the infrastructure around that. Until we know what we’re [needing] on a campus or the direction were going, it’s hard to continue the conversation.”


During spring public meetings, several parents voiced a desire for additional dual-language programs, and Champion said the district could look at ways to expand those during this process.


“I think we really need to start thinking about competition out there and what drives kids elsewhere,” Waggoner said.  “[We need to] make sure we’re staying fresh and make sure we’re offering to the constituency what [parents] want.”

By Lyndsey Taylor
After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lyndsey began working as a reporter for the Northwest Austin edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2012. During her time as a reporter, she has covered Round Rock ISD, health care in the Austin metro area and Austin Community College. She was promoted to editor of the Cedar Park| Leander edition in 2015 and covers city and education news, including Leander ISD.


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