Rezoning concerns vocalized for new Conroe ISD high school

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During a Jan. 9 community forum, Conroe ISD officials presented high school rezoning Scenario 1, which would rezone students in the Legends area and to the east to Grand Oaks High School, as the likely proposal to be presented to the board of trustees for redrawing the attendance boundary.

The appointed Attendance Boundary Committee, composed of CISD parents, principals and district administration, decided in a 24-4 vote that Scenario 1 would be best. The committee took into consideration a resolution approved by Oak Ridge North City Council during a Dec. 12 council meeting expressing opposition to the two zoning options proposed by CISD.

“We looked at all the feedback, including the resolution from the city of Oak Ridge North, plus the petitions we got from the different neighborhoods,” said Chris Hines, CISD’s deputy superintendent of schools. “The community represented a wide range of viewpoints, and there was a lot of discussion about this.”

Grand Oaks High School is expected to alleviate the current overpopulation of Oak Ridge High School and provide for future projected growth along the Grand Parkway when it opens for the 2018-19 school year.

Rezoning concerns vocalized for new Conroe ISD high schoolOak Ridge North concerns

Council Member Alex Jones presented two rezoning scenarios at a Dec. 12 Oak Ridge North City Council meeting. Scenario 1, which the committee has decided is the district’s best option, would assign 2,270 students to Oak Ridge High School by 2020, and 38 percent of those students would be considered low-income students. Grand Oaks High School would have been assigned 2,420 students with 19 percent of those students considered low-income. Under Scenario 2, Oak Ridge High School would be assigned 2,622 students by 2020 with 33 percent considered low-income, and Grand Oaks High School would have been assigned 2,068 students with 22 percent considered low-income.

Mayor Jim Kuykendall said he believes both scenarios are detrimental for Oak Ridge High School’s students, residents of the city, property values and the overall economic climate.

“The city of Oak Ridge North is concerned about the rezoning options for the new schools,” Kuykendall said. “Specifically, we are concerned that Oak Ridge High School will have a disproportionate number of low-income families compared to [Grand Oaks] and therefore have less opportunities available to the students. It will also have an effect on our property values. Our resolution proposes any other alternative that we believe the school board should consider. We look forward to working with the school board anyway we can.”

Oak Ridge High School has a student population of 4,127—with a capacity of 3,650—and the economically disadvantaged student population was 23.5 percent during the 2015-16 school year.

CISD board President Melanie Bush said at a Dec. 13 CISD board meeting the redistribution of students should not affect any of the schools’ 6A status, which requires at least 2,150 enrolled students, according to UIL guidelines.

Rezoning concerns vocalized for new Conroe ISD high schoolAcademy concerns

One option presented to offset the reduced number of students Oak Ridge High School will see when Grand Oaks High School opens is to open an academy campus at Oak Ridge High School. CISD currently houses an Academy of Science and Technology at College Park High School and an Academy for Science and Health at Conroe High School.

Academically advanced students who wish to enroll in an academy program must apply to get in, and subject matters vary in each program.

One concern among residents during the Jan. 9 meeting included whether students attending the academy would be accounted for in the top 10 percent of their classes along with the rest of the non-academy student body.

“When there is an academy, it’s a school within a school, but they are all Oak Ridge [High School] students,” said Curtis Null, CISD’s deputy superintendent of schools. “That’s how our other two academies are set up.”

Academies in CISD typically have room for about 350-400 students, and only CISD students—primarily students already zoned to Oak Ridge High School and Grand Oaks High School—would be allowed to enroll, Null said.

“[Rank] is something that we are sensitive to—to try not to import into any school too much of an outside influence,” Null said. “It does happen.  There are benefits and negatives to having an academy, and certainly that’s one of the things that I would call a challenge.”

Academy campuses provide some benefits, Hines said.

“One of the pluses is that it also increases the ability to offer upper-level electives, too,” Hines said. “It’s one of those things that is always a double tradeoff.”

Any steps regarding decisions on an academy will be taken after attendance rezoning options are approved.

The committee presented Scenario 1 to the board of trustees for approval during a Jan. 17 board meeting, although the results of the meeting were unknown as of press time. Following board approval of the high school rezoning map as well as new boundaries for Bradley Elementary School and the unnamed new intermediate school, the district will alert families affected by the rezoning, as well as reallocate and hire teachers.

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