The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees directed the administration to balance enrollment between Fort Settlement and First Colony middle schools during a discussion Feb. 18 involving the district’s annual enrollment review that showed Fort Settlement nearing capacity.
Following the board meeting, FBISD Superintendent Charles Dupre sent an email Feb. 19 to parents of all students attending Fort Settlement, First Colony, Commonwealth Elementary, Sullivan Elementary, Colony Meadows Elementary, Austin Parkway Elementary, Colony Bend Elementary and Settlers Way Elementary schools explaining the decision.
Dupre’s email said the administration will develop boundary options to be presented to the board for approval in March or April, and any new boundaries would begin in August.
“Since we will be operating on a tight timeframe, the scope of this process will be narrow, and we will have limited community engagement,” Dupre said. “We expect the boundaries approved this spring to be a short-term solution to relieve FSMS. We plan to revisit the middle school boundaries when we conduct the boundary process for ES 53, most likely in the fall of the 2020-21 school year.”
Elementary schools feeding into Fort Settlement were set to visit the campus during the week of Feb. 18, but parents were notified Feb. 19 the visit was postponed.
Based on the enrollment review discussion of Fort Settlement, where capacity was labeled at 95 percent, some board members expressed concerns. FBISD uses third-party demographer Population and Survey Analysts to identify schools within the district that may be nearing significant over- or underutilization.
Position 7 trustee Dave Rosenthal mentioned that previous plans to balance enrollment at the two schools in 2014 and in 2018 did not happen, and instead, certain provisions were made to manage the growth.
“We have had to increase the number of pre-AP classrooms up to 33 children,” he said. “It makes it really difficult to differentiate your teaching and sometimes control the class. To me, that is not fair to those students.”
He also discussed during the 2017-18 school year, the number of counselor visits at Fort Settlement doubled, while 50 percent of sixth-graders could not enroll in theater.
“In my opinion, this tells me that school is at capacity,” Rosenthal said. “I think that everyone agrees that at some point rebalancing needs to occur. To me, the question is why not now? There are options there that will solve the problem.”
One of those options discussed was building Elementary School No. 53, which would relieve the overutilization at Sullivan in the Riverstone community and Commonwealth, located at Commonwealth Boulevard and Briarwood Road, Dupre said.
“The land for Elementary 53 has not yet been procured, but last night, the board authorized the district to utilize eminent domain in an effort to negotiate the purchase of land,” he said. “Should this be successful, our plan would be to open a new school in the 2021-22 school year. If we are unable to finalize acquisition of that site, classroom additions would be constructed at Commonwealth Elementary, Austin Parkway Elementary and Settlers Way Elementary to provide needed classrooms.”
The board also discussed continuing to limit new enrollment at Commonwealth for the 2019-20 school year and that parents would be informed about kindergarten enrollment and how the district plans to manage enrollment until it can identify a permanent solution.