Four Richardson ISD elementary schools—Greenwood Hills, Thurgood Marshall, Springridge and Spring Valley—will close at the end of the school year. Selected by an RISD Community Budget Steering Committee formed in June, the consolidations resulting in these closures was approved March 21.

“We can’t keep operating the number of elementary schools that we have, knowing ... we are serving less students than we were before the pandemic,” Superintendent Tabitha Branum said.

At the same time, the district is doing away with its practice of bussing certain students to schools outside of their designated attendance zones.

The moves come amid additional declines in enrollment, rising repair costs for aging infrastructure and no increase in state funding, Branum said.

What's happening?

Schools selected for consolidation through the district’s Project RightSize program were chosen due to being nearly 60% under capacity and having high maintenance costs because of their age, said Sandra Hayes, assistant superintendent of district operations.

New attendance boundaries for the consolidated campuses were drawn in an effort to balance capacity at surrounding schools, avoid having students crossing major roadways and distribute changes across the district’s learning communities.

By consolidating the schools and limiting bussing, district officials expect to save about $10.3 million annually. With other Project RightSize proposals, such as creating a more efficient staffing, which is expected to save around $2 million annually, the district’s expected $28 million shortfall would be cut to under $16 million, Branum said.

“We are making this [decision] because we do believe [it’s necessary] for the long-term sustainability of the district,” Branum said.

How we got here

Richardson ISD’s Project RightSize comes as districts across Texas have not seen an increase in funding from the Legislature since FY 2018-19. During that time, lawmakers passed mandates, such as requiring security at all campuses, that have increased school expenses.

Schools are given $6,160 annually per student in state funding, according to the Texas Education Agency.

“We really hoped and leaned on Austin, ... and when that funding did not come through, then the urgency of, ‘We have to find efficiencies in our budget; we cannot compensate staff; we cannot maintain student programming,’ was there,” Branum said.

Without cost-cutting measures, RISD could see its budget deficits increase by more than 557% by fiscal year 2027-28, according to district officials.

What else?

RISD is also seeing a student population decline that’s expected to continue for at least the next nine years, according to a demographer’s report.

Branum said past administrations have considered some of the measures in Project RightSize but held off in hopes that state funding would increase. However, with the population decline that happened in the district during the pandemic, implementing them became a “necessity,” she said.

The consolidated campuses are planned to be used for other purposes that are expected to create future savings, Branum said. Those could include housing a day care for staff, becoming the new site of central offices and the district’s professional development center, and housing college acceleration and disciplinary alternative education programs.

Moving forward

As students and parents deal with the changes, Tim Seaman, longtime resident and member of the Greenwood Hills Neighborhood Association, said his community is focused on integrating with and supporting the schools residents will now be a part of.

Moving forward, other proposals from the budget committee are on the table as part of Project RightSize. They include:
  • Closing Dobie Pre-Kindergarten School in the 2025-26 school year
  • Opening enrollment outside the district
  • Making cuts to central and support departments
  • Implementing a $0.03 property tax increase that would bring in $5.9 million in additional annual revenue
“We support the schools because by doing that we’re supporting our neighborhood,” Seaman said.