Clear Creek ISD rezones schools to reduce overcrowding

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The Clear Creek ISD board of trustees on Feb. 25 approved recommended boundary changes at over a dozen schools effective for the 2019-20 school year to alleviate overcrowding, bringing some relief to campuses in a growing area.

But not everyone approves of the changes. A few parents in the Rustic Oaks subdivision oppose the neighborhood being rezoned from Gilmore Elementary School to Hall Elementary School and will seek ways to keep their children at Gilmore, they said.

“There’s a better solution than this,” Rustic Oaks parent Christine Parizo said.

The boundary rezoning process began in October after more than 500 parents applied to be on the School Boundary Advisory Committee. Over 30 parents served on the committee and came up with original recommendations they altered after several public feedback sessions.

Overall, the committee and CCISD officials are satisfied with the boundary revisions.

“This district did it right,” committee Vice Chairman Ross Norman said.

OVERCAPACITY ISSUES

Overcrowding at several schools prompted CCISD to rezone campuses, something it has not done since 2012.

Mossman Elementary School is 3.9 percent overcapacity. Hall Elementary is 1.2 percent over. Clear Springs High School is 12.9 percent over, and Clear Falls High School is 10.9 percent over.

To alleviate elementary schools overcapacity, the district in April began building Campbell Elementary School, which will open for the 2019-20 school year. The school is near an undeveloped part of southwest League City that will be built out as the city continues to attract development.

“That’s where the balancing came into play,” CCISD Chief Communications Officer Elaina Polsen said.

To fill Campbell Elementary, the committee recommended pulling students from nearby Hall Elementary, which is nearing capacity. To fill Hall back up, the committee had to pull from another nearby school, creating a chain reaction all the way to Bauerschlag Elementary School, Norman said.

“When you move big numbers into a school, it’s a domino effect. You have to move some out,” Polsen said.

At the high school level, the committee recommended moving 243 students from Clear Springs High to Clear Brook High and 236 students from Clear Falls High to Clear Lake High. Both Clear Springs and Clear Falls are overcrowded, Polsen said.

One of the committee’s charges was to try to clean up feeder patterns to keep students together from kindergarten to graduation. None of the district’s intermediate schools are overcapacity, but the committee’s original recommendations included several boundary changes at intermediate schools in an attempt to clean up such patterns.

Parents objected to the changes, so the committee withdrew almost all their intermediate-level recommendations.

“We realized we were impacting the community by making changes at the intermediate level that we didn’t mean to make,” Norman said.

Cleaning up feeder patterns is difficult in a district with over 40 schools over 110 square miles, Polsen said.

“Maybe at some point in our time we’ll get there,” she said.

CONCERNED RUSTIC OAKS NEIGHBORS

After releasing its original recommended boundary changes, the committee held five public meetings in late January to hear public feedback.

Many parents who spoke objected to proposed boundary changes and pleaded for grandfathering to allow high school students to remain at the school they attend now instead of having to be rezoned halfway through their high school careers.

The committee tweaked several of its recommendations accordingly and presented its final recommendations to the board Feb. 11.

The committee also recommended grandfathering. Under the existing new campus boundaries, any CCISD student not currently in ninth, 10th or 11th grade will attend their newly zoned school at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Current high school students will be grandfathered into the changes, meaning they will be able to graduate from the high school they started at. Incoming freshmen will attend their newly zoned school, Polsen said.

“The public feedback had a lot to do with [our final recommendations],” Norman said. “For myself and for our Chairperson Sara [Holder] and for many —if not all—of the members of the committee, we listened and we considered everything that was shared with us by the public.”

However, one recommendation that never changed was to rezone the Rustic Oaks subdivision from Gilmore Elementary to Hall Elementary.

Parizo lives in Rustic Oaks and is a parent of a 12-year-old who attended Gilmore Elementary and a 7-year-old enrolled there. Parizo moved to Rustic Oaks in part because she wanted her children to attend Gilmore, which is a newer school with a good reputation and equipped with technology, she said.

“I like what I saw with Gilmore,” Parizo said.

Parizo does not want to move her child to Hall Elementary because it has an overall 83 out of 100 from the Texas Education Agency’s scoring algorithm compared to Gilmore Elementary’s 91.

Board members and CCISD administration said parents should not consider only a school’s TEA scoring. Both Gilmore and Hall are excellent elementary schools, students experience the same curriculum at both, and TEA scoring is a flawed system, Polsen said.

“They’re both fabulous, great schools,” she said. “It’s not a downgrade.”

CCISD board of trustees President Page Rander agreed.

“We are fortunate to have 44 wonderful schools, so wherever a child is zoned to attend, he or she will be greeted with exceptional learning experiences and highly qualified teachers,” she said.

The committee was not charged with factoring campuses’ TEA scores into recommended boundary changes, Norman said.

“You’re not gonna be able to satisfy everyone’s request and desire, but we did our best to fix some feeder patterns and meet the needs of the community and support the district,” he said. “I do believe that Clear Creek ISD is an incredible district with great teachers [and]great administrators, and scores at one school might be low one year, but over time I know this district helps them grow and be better because the ultimate goal is to help students grow and be better.”

Karen Braquet, another Rustic Oaks parent, has several daughters enrolled at Gilmore Elementary. She felt so strongly about not moving her children to Hall that she came up with an alternative plan of her own to shuffle students without rezoning Rustic Oaks.

The committee considered parents’ concerns and Braquet’s alternative and decided the committee’s original recommendation was best, Norman said. Rezoning Gilmore and Hall elementaries was a change that had to happen at some point, Polsen said.

“It’s in the district’s best interest to do it now,” Polsen said. “[Parents] were looking at [the situation]in isolation while the committee was looking at it as a bigger picture.”

One of the committee’s charges was to minimize disruption to the community with proposed boundary changes.

“The idea was to keep neighborhoods together as possible,” Polsen said.

Parizo does not feel the committee met that charge.

“I don’t think they did because they would have considered the impact this would have had on Rustic Oaks and League City as a whole,” she said.

Parizo said she will do whatever she can to keep her child at Gilmore Elementary, including applying for an intradistrict transfer. She has even requested an investigation into a committee member, alleging unethical conduct and a conflict of interest helped result in Rustic Oaks being rezoned to Hall Elementary.

“I’m going to explore all my appeals that I possibly can to get this reversed,” Parizo said.

Polsen said Parizo’s claims are unfounded and that the committee and its members acted appropriately.

IMPLEMENTATION

A total of 1,769 students districtwide will be affected by the changes. With the grandfathering policy, only 1,412 students will change schools for the 2019-20 school year, Polsen wrote in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.

CCISD will contact all parents of students affected by the boundary changes. They will have opportunities to tour the campuses of their children’s newly zoned schools, Polsen said.

The grandfathering is part of a policy the district just recently put into writing. Under the policy, current fourth- and seventh-graders will be given priority treatment if they submit intradistrict transfers to remain at the school they currently attend to avoid being rezoned to a new school for only one year.

The district does not have a policy that keeps siblings together. Incoming freshmen will not necessarily attend the same high school as their upperclassmen siblings, Polsen said.

Bus routes will be altered to accommodate the new zoning. Certain programs, such as the hearing-impaired program, will move campuses depending on where they best fit in the new zoning. STEM programming will expand to Hall Elementary for the 2019-20 school year because the building will have enough room for such classes, Polsen said.

Officials recognize the boundary changes are not a permanent solution. League City and the surrounding areas continue to grow, and the district expects to need to build new schools in the future, Polsen said.

“Unfortunately, sometime down the road, the district may have to go through this process again,” Norman said.

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Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for a few years, covering topics such as city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be an editor with Community Impact. In his free time, Magee enjoys playing video games, jamming on the drums and bass, longboarding and petting his cat.
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