The rezoning plan was developed by the district’s parent- and staff-led Attendance Boundary Committee to alleviate capacity issues at some of the area’s most crowded schools and to plan for projected enrollment growth, especially along the FM 1488 and I-45 corridors.
“That is ultimately the challenge, is that we will be crowded on the 1488 side; we will also continue to be crowded on the east side of The Woodlands area,” Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines said.
The final plan was recommended by the committee out of dozens of possible rezoning options and will go into effect for the 2020-21 school year. While officials expressed confidence in the plan, Hines also noted that no plan garnered majority support within the boundary committee.
The rezoning will center on the district’s most overcrowded campus, Ride Elementary, which is over 130% capacity this year. The rezoning will shift 323 Jacob’s Reserve residents from Ride to Galatas Elementary, while Galatas will send 146 of its local students to Tough Elementary. The remaining boundary adjustments will move 77 students from Mitchell Intermediate to Tough, 29 students from Bush Elementary to Buckalew Elementary, 27 students from Lamar Elementary to Ride, and six students from Wilkerson Intermediate to Collins Intermediate.
Students in bilingual or pre-K programs may also be shifted, according to a draft outline of school capacities presented by Hines, and the number of portable classrooms in use at some The Woodlands elementaries could also decrease.
All elementary schools in The Woodlands could fall to around 100% capacity or lower following the rezoning, according to the draft information. The district had set a capacity target of 110% or below for the boundary adjustment process.
The CISD board of trustees approved the rezoning scenario in a 7-0 vote during a specially called session Feb. 25. That meeting came one week after the board rejected the same proposal in a 3-3 vote, and it included a lengthy public comment period during which more than 30 parents from The Woodlands and Jacob’s Reserve shared their thoughts on the plan.
Parents’ opinions for and against the rezoning were largely split along geographical boundaries. Many residents of Jacob’s Reserve favored the proposal as it would keep their community together through the transition, while some residents with students at Galatas expressed concerns that the plan split their own neighborhood school.
Parents also commented on the effectiveness of the plan given the expected future population growth around some of the rezoned areas and the contention that arose between parents and neighborhoods through the process. Prior to the meeting, parents had submitted petitions to the board signed by hundreds of residents along with dozens of comments shared directly with trustees.
Despite some reservations expressed at the Feb. 18 meeting, all seven board members reached agreement at the second session. Trustee John Husbands, who posed several questions at the first meeting, commended the committee and said he was satisfied with the final proposal approved on Feb. 25.
“I was here in 2009 when Sally K. Ride was empty and had to go through one of these, and it wasn’t any fun then and it’s not any fun now. But trust me when I tell you we’ve got the best in the business working for us,” Husbands said. “I’m 100% confident that they did their best.”
Board President Datren Williams also noted the committee’s efforts before the deciding vote.
“The ABC ... has exhaustively explored multiple scenarios and the committee feels that this is the scenario that is least disruptive to families while addressing district capacity issues,” he said. “We are blessed to live in an exemplary school district where each kid’s success is just as important as the next, and we consider all of our schools and teaching staff as exceptional.”
Throughout the process, several parents also mentioned the need for a new school along FM 1488 to serve growing communities there. At the board’s Feb. 18 meeting, Superintendent Curtis Null said a new school north of The Woodlands had been proposed in the district’s failed $807 million bond proposal of May 2019 but was removed in the successful $653.57 million package passed in November.
While rezoning is expected to bring most elementaries in The Woodlands and College Park high schools’ feeder zones to their capacities, CISD may need to consider further rezoning this decade—although Hines said the district would try to avoid moving any students affected in this shift for a second time.
CISD expects to add 1,400 students annually, and hundreds of new arrivals are projected to settle in growing developments around The Woodlands area within five years. Hines said CISD will also add around 750 pre-K students for the upcoming school year due to full-day pre-K programming mandated by the state.