It was standing room only at the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees meeting Jan. 14 as the board discussed proposed boundary change recommendations affecting the Elementary 51 area and high schools in the southeast portion of the county.
Among the crowd were parents and residents who wore colorful shirts in support for certain areas affected by proposed boundary changes.
To make way for the new Malala Yousafzai Elementary School being built in the Aliana community, school district officials recommended a two-phased plan: In the first phase taking place in the fall of 2019, Madden Elementary students living west of Westmoor Drive and south of West Airport Boulevard would move to the new school. In addition, an undeveloped area in the Neill Elementary boundary south of Texas Department of Criminal Justice property will be rezoned to Brazos Bend Elementary.
In the second phase to happen in the fall of 2020, the Chelsea Harbor and Stratford Park Estates neighborhoods, along with land in Cullinan Park and Sugar Land Municipal Airport, will be rezoned to Oyster Creek Elementary, according to the recommendation.
“This proposal will provide minimal impact on communities rezoned already when Madden opened,” said Scott Leopold, partner at Cooperative Strategies, who is working with the district on enrollment data related to the boundary planning. “It also lays the groundwork for future schools in the area, including Elementary School 56.”
With regard to the high school boundary proposal, the district recommended Schiff Elementary and a portion of Heritage Rose Elementary feed into Hightower High School rather than Ridge Point High School.
Meanwhile, Rosa Parks Elementary and an area of Palmer Elementary, north of Lake Olympia Parkway and east of Community Park, would be zoned to Willowridge High School from Hightower, according to documents presented at the meeting.
The rationale for those changes included minimizing impact to other boundaries, while relieving Ridge Point, which will remain at or near current overcapacity level until High School 12 opens in 2024, according to the district. It will also increase utilization at Willowridge where enrollment is expected to decline to 45 percent over the next 10 years if no changes were proposed.
Superintendent Charles Dupre said that academy enrollment was not included in the numbers and that the district would come back at a later date to discuss the academies, but that he did not anticipate anything changing.
During board discussion, several trustees raised the concern of moving Schiff Elementary-zoned students again, who had already experienced shifting middle schools a few years ago. Though Leopold said they would not be moving middle schools, but high schools, Trustee Grayle James said that they were still essentially being moved.
“These are children we are talking about,” she said. “It is important to me that we do the very best we can to provide them with a consistent and reliable educational experience. When we move them from place to place, that impacts them. It impacts families and everything about their educational experience. It might be good for the short term, but is not a long-term solution to make it work for families and for the kids impacted.”
James also discussed the community perception that not all of the schools were of equal value to the community. She said she felt student achievement numbers for some high schools was impacting the boundary decision.
Four years ago, when the district discussed its facilities master plan, it looked for ways to save money by not having to build an additional high school, but instead are working with high schools that are having trouble with student achievement, she said.
“I wish that wasn’t so,” James said. “I wish we could find things that would help those schools, and we are struggling to find the right programming. Dr. Dupre is bringing some things here tonight, and I am hopeful it will move them in the right direction. Bottom line, if we had excellent student achievement at Marshall and Willowridge high schools, this conversation would not be difficult at all.”
The board will hold a regular board meeting Jan. 22, during which the trustees will make a final decision on rezoning the boundaries.