Oak Ridge North City Council approved a resolution Monday night expressing opposition to the two zoning options proposed by Conroe ISD for the re-distribution of Oak Ridge High School students.
The resolution comes after CISD approved the sale of new and refunded bonds during its board meeting on Sept. 20 to fund, in part, the construction of Grand Oaks High School. The new high school is expected to alleviate the current over-population of Oak Ridge High School and to plan and provide for future projected growth along the Grand Parkway.
According to Oak Ridge North city officials, the CISD Attendance Boundary Committee held a public meeting on Nov. 30 at ORHS. During the meeting, district officials presented two scenarios for re-distributing students from the current ORHS feeder zone regarding the two new attendance boundaries that split students between Oak Ridge and Grand Oaks high schools. The district plans to have another round of public forums in January.
Council Member Alex Jones presented the two rezoning scenarios at Monday’s council meeting. Scenario one would assign 2,270 students to Oak Ridge High School, and 38 percent of those students would be considered low-income students. Grand Oaks High School would be assigned 2,420 students with 19 percent of those students considered low-income. Under scenario two, Oak Ridge High School would be assigned 2,622 students with 33 percent considered low-income, and Grand Oaks High School would be assigned 2,068 students with 22 percent considered low-income.
Oak Ridge High School's economically disadvantaged student population was 23.5 percent during the 2015-16 school year.
CISD board secretary Melanie Bush said at a CISD board meeting Tuesday the re-distribution of students should not affect any of the schools' 6A status, which requires at least 2,150 enrolled students.
Mayor Jim Kuykendall expressed his concern that the two scenarios presented will have a detrimental effect on 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.”
At the special public forum held Nov. 29 to present the attendance rezoning options, deputy superintendent of operations Chris Hines said the scenarios come with both pros and cons, and space in the buildings is the most important factor.
“The most important thing we’re trying to do is utilize the space,” Hines said. “We’re trying to fill up the buildings to achieve reduced enrollment at our overcrowded campus.”
The CISD board of trustees identified specific goals to be achieved through the rezoning process, some of which include: being mindful that providing for the education and welfare of students is CISD's mission; drawing attendance boundaries which support the efficient use of school facilities and resources and planning; and allowing for future growth through zoning of the existing and new campuses.
Jones said he does not know what effect the Oak Ridge North resolution will have on the outcome of the rezoning issue, but said he hopes the decision is made with everyone in mind and that the committee meets the goals that were identified.
“None of us can be sure what the board will do,” he said. “Our vote is that it needs to encompass what is best for everyone. What I’d like to see is the board push this back to the committee. It’s our hope they recognize the given goals they set since they currently fail to meet critical goals.”
Additional reporting by Beth Marshall