Frisco ISD opened four new schools for the 2018-19 school year, relieving enrollment at 11 other schools.
Memorial High School, Lawler Middle School and Liscano and Talley elementary schools were originally scheduled to open in the
2017-18 school year. As a cost-saving measure, FISD delayed the opening of those schools, resulting in increased class sizes and rezoning for some schools.
Scott Warstler, FISD director of planning and business operations, said the district’s optimal capacity for schools is between 85-90 percent. That percentage includes not only accommodating the general student population but also students in special education programs. For some schools the optimal capacity percentage increased during the 2017-18 school year.
“Were we able to make do? Absolutely,” Warstler said. “… but then definitely what you saw coming into this year was the need for those [new]schools to relieve us.”
Delaying school openings comes with a number of challenges, Warstler said. Along with increasing class sizes, lunch hours may be extended, parking lots can get tight and the district may resort to using portable classes to accommodate the extra students.
“It just feels crowded,” Warstler said. “Hallways in between passing periods can become an issue when you have an additional 100, 200, 250 students in a high school. It’s things like that.”
For many of the campuses relieved by the opening of the new schools this year, enrollment seems to have decreased from last year, according to preliminary enrollment data.
Warstler said the district used rezoning for the 2017-18 year to spread out the increasing number of students coming into the district while the new schools’ openings were delayed.
In the past year enrollment increased by about 2,500 students, according to the district. The district projects to add another 1,400-2,100 students each year for the next five years.
The district’s goal this year is to rezone fewer schools than last year, Warstler said.
“When we went through the major rezoning we did last year, part of that was trying to knock as much out in one year so that next year is not so difficult,” he said. “Our goal this year is minimal rezoning. We may have to look at a couple of school zones for the following year, but it will be very few come this fall.”
After this year Warstler said the district will likely rezone schools regularly for the next few years to avoid opening too many new schools.
“The community is really pushing and asking us to look at school capacity before we build more buildings,” Warstler said. “Rezoning is difficult and rezoning can impact families. What we’re hearing collectively from the community … is we would rather look at ways to maximize efficiencies in schools before we build new schools.”
With the opening of the four schools this year, the district does not plan to open another school—an elementary school—until 2020, Warstler said. The district is looking into whether that elementary school’s opening could be pushed back another year to save on operational costs.