Fort Bend ISD is in the process of reviewing possible scenarios to revise its feeder patterns and realign attendance boundaries to allow for future enrollment growth, prevent overcrowding and accommodate the addition of seven new schools.
"The establishment of districtwide feeder patterns and attendance boundaries is certainly not an easy task, but feeder pattern alignment is critical to ensure that our facilities are used efficiently and the district is poised to handle future growth without overcrowding our schools," FBISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said. "Fort Bend ISD would also like to maintain the neighborhood concept and keep distances traveled by students as short as possible."
The district, in conjunction with educational facility firm DeJong-Richter, developed two possible scenarios for the restructuring of its feeder patterns and attendance boundaries using a demographic study performed by Population and Survey Analysts. The demographic study will be updated in December.
"Both scenarios were developed with district policy in mind," Dupre said. "While we want the feeder pattern structure to stand the test of time, we also want to make these decisions in a collaborative way. We feel both feeder pattern scenarios provide long-term solutions as long as the district maintains its boundaries on a consistent basis."
Identifying a need
According to the report, in the next five to 10 years a number of schools in the district could experience both over- and underutilization as a result of where a majority of the population growth is taking place.
FBISD officials determined that with projected growth occurring mainly in the western portion of the district, there was a need to pull students from west to east, where there is excess capacity in schools. In doing so, the district would be able to balance enrollment at schools expected to be overutilized in the future and increase enrollment at expected underutilized campuses, all while creating more aligned feeder patterns.
The proposed scenarios address the district's growth by using existing facilities in a more effective manner, with a combined focus on student achievement and fiscal accountability, said Nancy Porter, chief communications officer for FBISD.
In addition, the proposed scenarios also attempt to consider the effect on diversity at each campus as well as reduce the number of feeder splits in the district, FBISD Media Relations Coordinator Amanda Bubela said. A feeder split occurs when a population of students divides between two or more schools in transition to the next grade level. Feeder splits can occur between elementary and middle schools and between middle and high schools.
As it stands, there are 34 feeder splits from elementary school to middle school and 16 splits from middle school to high school.
The district presented its initial feeder pattern and boundary proposal—which is being referred to as Scenario A—to the board of trustees at an Oct. 20 meeting.
The number of elementary to middle school feeder splits in Scenario A was reduced from 34 to six and the middle to high school splits from 16 to five, said Scott Leopold, project director for DeJong-Richter. The proposed scenario would require attendance boundary realignment for 19 of the district's elementary schools.
After being reviewed by the board, Scenario A was presented to district residents at two community meetings on Oct. 21 and 22, where it was met with some opposition—mainly from residents of Riverstone and Lake Olympia.
Many residents and parents in these neighborhoods voiced concerns over the proposal, stating they chose their respective neighborhoods based on where their child would attend school. Under Scenario A, middle school students in Riverstone and high school students in Lake Olympia would be zoned to different schools.
As a result of the proposal, a neighborhood group—Riverstone Residents Together—formed to oppose the rezoning. An online petition titled "Keeping Lake Olympia Zoned to Elkins H.S." was also created.
In the weeks following the meetings, FBISD received more than 6,000 surveys from the community, which prompted district officials to consider alternative feeder pattern and boundary options, Porter said.
With a considerable amount of feedback regarding Scenario A, the district went back to the drawing board to revise its initial proposal to alleviate concerns and adhere to the expressed wishes of the community.
The revised proposal—dubbed Scenario B—was presented to the board of trustees at a Nov. 17 meeting. Much like the initial proposal, it was developed using board policy guidelines with future enrollment projections in mind, Dupre said.
The number of elementary to middle school feeder splits in Scenario B is eight and the middle to high school splits is six, which is a slight change from Scenario A, Leopold said. Boundary realignment for 19 elementary schools would still be needed.
Scenario B received considerable support among the district's board members. However, board members did reiterate the need to find solutions that can stand over time, rather than quick fixes.
The district has launched an online questionnaire that will be available for several weeks on its website, which allows for members of the community to provide feedback on Scenario B. FBISD officials will review and consider all community feedback regarding Scenario B. The updated proposal is not final and is subject to change pending community response and an updated demographic study.
The district will present its final recommendation to the board of trustees at its Jan. 26 meeting for implementation in the next school year.
Both scenarios are still viable options and the district's final recommendation will be the scenario that makes the most sense for the district and its students, Dupre said.
"There are more than 72,000 students in Fort Bend ISD, and the difficult decisions ahead will not allow everyone to get their way," Dupre said. "In addition, because this work is so complex, the feeder patterns and boundary scenarios that make up both proposals are not interchangeable. The board's final decision must work as a whole scenario to ensure each student is considered."