Using demographic data including housing and job trends, Population and Survey Analysts found that in the next 10 years, Fort Bend ISD is expected to see its enrollment grow from 77,753 in the 2019-20 school year to 89,055 in the 2029-30 school year, adding an average of 1,125 students per year.

PASA, a third-party demographer based in College Station, presented its annual demographic report during the Feb. 24 FBISD Board of Trustees meeting, which showed the moderate growth projection for the district for the next 10 years.

Anticipating growth

A significant amount of this growth will occur in the Sienna community and FM 521 corridor in the southeast corner of the district, according to PASA President Stacey Tepera. From 2019-2029, that area is expected to add more than 9,000 single-family homes, with 5,375 of them in the Sienna neighborhood, Tepera said.

“We are actually moving as quickly as we can in the Sienna area right now,” Superintendent Charles Dupre said at the Feb. 24 meeting. “I think we have a good plan.”

Currently, the southern tip of the district is served by Heritage Rose and Leonetti elementary schools. Tepera said in the next 10 years, the district will need an additional 4 to 5 elementary schools in that area to accommodate all of the new student growth.

“I know you’re thinking, ‘Well, that’s ten years, that’s a long time,’ but in the next five years, we are estimating 4,000 new students, so that’s 2 and a half schools that could be utilized,” Tepera said at the Feb. 24 presentation.

Additionally, most of this growth is located in the Thorton Middle School and Ridge Point High School attendance zone. Ridge Point High School is overpopulated at 122.3% capacity, according to district data. PASA projected the district will have the need for an additional middle school and that the planned high school No. 12 in the area will help accommodate this boom.

The district is also looking at growth in the northwest corner of the district, which includes the Aliana and Harvest Green communities.

New multi-family homes expected in the next 10 years are mostly located in the northern portion of the district. PASA’s director of demographic projections, Justin Silhavy, said in the next 5 years, approximately 1,500 multi-family units are expected in Harvest Green and Aliana alone.

FBISD recently established a School Boundary Oversight Committee, comprised of parents and community representatives, which will work to review student enrollment projections and provide feedback on future boundary changes.

“I think we are at a place now with engaging the SBOC that we are going to be much more effective than we have been historically,” Dupre said at the meeting. “I think the data you have now is going to show longer-range planning [and] a more mindful attitude to near-term and longer-term planning.”

‘An aging district’

In addition to projected growth in the southeast and northwest edges of the district that may lead to overcrowding concerns, FBISD also has many underutilized campuses located toward the center of the district.

Districtwide, FBISD has 11 overutilized campuses and 38 underutilized campuses, according to the district’s annual student enrollment review, which was also presented at the Feb. 24 meeting.

FBISD considers a school underutilized if it is at less than 80% capacity and overutilized if it is over 100% capacity.

“We are an aging district,” Dupre said at the meeting. “We have significantly more underutilized campuses than [overutilized], and our growth is projected to be finished pretty much within the next 10 years ... We need to start thinking seriously about rebalancing across broader sections of the organization and the potential that some schools may not be utilized long-term, and that’s always the hardest conversation.”

Going forward, district staff and the board will work with the SBOC to develop plans for how to best use available space and minimize overcrowding. Among other options, FBISD staff said they will look at moving special programs to schools with more available space.

Dupre also mentioned the possibility of the district needing to bring in a consultant in the next year or two about how to use these under-utilized schools.

“We’re in that phase where we are always going to be on the tipping point between close, open, growing, not, but we are in a healthy place for the future of this organization,” Dupre said.

Proposed changes

For the 2020-21 school year, district staff recommends implementing the following measures to best use available space and address overcrowding at some district campuses:

  • Limit transfers to Special Circumstance Transfers

  • Recruit and retain charter school students back to FBISD

  • Move the Early Intervention Academy from Ridgemont Early Literacy Center to Quail Valley Elementary

  • Transport portables to campuses with identified needs

Additionally, Beth Martinez, FBISD’s chief academic officer, said FBISD staff supports implementing cap and overflow at Heritage Rose Elementary, Sienna Crossing Elementary, Commonwealth Elementary and Ridge Point High School.

Under cap and flow, future enrollment at the school is limited only to kindergarteners who are zoned for the school and those who live within two miles of the school. All other students will be enrolled in neighboring schools with more capacity.

FBISD staff and trustees said going forward they will continue discussions around building new campuses and best using available space at existing schools.