Humble ISD board of trustees, which has been meeting by videoconference since March, is considering the long-term impact of the coronavirus on enrollment and the district's future school buildout.
At the May 12 meeting, trustees heard from officials from the Population and Survey Analysts demographic firm who created a new demographic study of the district. HISD’s last study was completed in February 2016 before the district’s 2018 bond referendum.
The 2019 study included enrollment and housing projections from 2019-29, with the study accounting for less future enrollment growth due to the coronavirus and due to the district nearing buildout, or when there will no longer be any developable land. PASA Demographer Justin Silhavy said a significant decline in home construction as well as anticipated job losses from the pandemic could negatively affect enrollment growth.
“Our projections were finalized late enough, so we did account for about a 15%-30% decline in new housing occupancies, particularly in the 2021-2022 timeframe,” Silhavy said. “A lot of that's due to just the uncertainty with the oil situation. If we see a lot more oil jobs being lost in the next six to 18 months, we're definitely going to see a drop in housing.”
Overall, HISD is projected to add between 4,208 and 7,712 students over that 10-year period, according to PASA data. In a moderate-growth scenario, the district's enrollment will increase from 45,078 students last year to 51,959 students by October 2029. Silhavy said a majority of the single-family and multifamily growth projected for the district has and will take place in its southeastern sector.
"So 61% of your growth from 2018-2019 occurred in these [large single-family] developments—that's not to say you didn't have growth elsewhere," he said. "There were other developments that may be finished building out a few years ago, but we're still seeing students age forward in those neighborhoods, so there you have growth as well. We're seeing a little growth in apartments, [and] you'll see a lot more growth in apartments over the next few years, since you've had so many under construction."
However, Silhavy said that charter schools could also cause transfers out of the district in the future. While PASA did not report any charter schools on the horizon, Silhavy said charter schools, such as IDEA Public Schools, have taken away enrollment from districts in other parts of North Houston, such as Houston ISD and Spring ISD.
“[IDEA] has plans for about six other campuses in the metro area,” he said. “We don't know where those are yet, so if any of those were to occur inside Humble [ISD], you can anticipate students moving toward the charter systems.”
Planning for growth in elementary, middle schools
To accommodate the anticipated enrollment growth over the next 10 years, PASA President Stacey Tepera said in the meeting that the district will need to quickly use its planned projects as well as consider future expansion projects.
Planned expansions such as Elementary No. 30, the Lakeland Elementary rebuild and Middle School No. 10—which are set to begin this year—will be needed to accommodate the growth expected over the next 10 years, she said. Lakeland Elementary’s rebuild and Elementary School No. 30 will open in 2021, while Middle School No. 10 will open August 2022, according to district officials.
Middle School No. 10 will be needed to alleviate overcrowding at Westlake, Wood Creek and Humble middle schools in the near future, Tepera said.
"Middle School No. 10 ... will be well utilized as soon as it can be built in order to relieve those three middle schools overcrowding," she said.
Additionally, Tepera said HISD should begin planning for adding more capacity at both the existing Groves Elementary and the in-construction Centennial Elementary as well as planning for a potential High School No. 6.
High school buildout
The district will need to account for a surplus of roughly 3,000 high school-aged students by 2029, Tepera said. She said Humble and Summer Creek high schools will see the most growth over the next several years.
An option to accommodate for the surplus includes building the district's final high school, High School No. 6, in the southeast part of the district. Another option includes expanding the capacities at Humble, Atascocita and Summer Creek high schools to 4,000 students each and adding additional students at Quest Early College High Schools, she said.
However, following the projected growth, Tepera said the district's enrollment will likely plateau as the area nears buildout.
Trustee Keith Lapeze said he thought it would be "insane" to build a sixth high school when the district is currently anticipating a high school student surplus of only several thousand.
"To think that we're going to build a school, a high school—the most expensive school you can build—for only a couple thousand more kids, I think is insane, especially when we know [enrollment is] going to plateau," he said.
Humble and Quest Early College high schools are currently on the list of the district's planned expansion projects.
Humble High School is set to get additional classrooms and a renovated library, cafeteria and gyms, according to the HISD website. The Quest Early College renovations will be completed during the 2022-23 school year and will accommodate 600 students, district officials previously said.
Trustee Robert Scarfo asked district officials if expanding Humble High School and other campuses further now, as opposed to constructing another expansion project in the future, would be possible.
"On Humble [High School], so if we're going to 3,200 [now]... should we go to 3,600 or 3,800 capacity looking ahead to what we're going to need?" he asked.
Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said while it will not be possible to immediately expand the high schools further, it would be possible to get the architects for Humble High School to design a two-phase buildout for the campus.
Fagen also stressed the importance of not over-building the district while still providing quality learning space for the district's future students.
"We have a lot of things in play to help us have breathing room as we're moving forward and really evaluate the need of what we want to do to accommodate all of our students," she said. "It certainly is a borderline question—it's not clear cut. I think that there's a lot of merit to seeing if our students will fit in our current schools."