Editor's note: This is our December 2023 print version of a story that ran in a shorter form on Nov. 15, with additional information and graphics.

About three dozen protesters waved signs and chanted outside Tomball ISD’s administration building Nov. 13 and 14, voicing disapproval of a proposed location for an intermediate school that would serve families from the Creekside Park area.

TISD leaders have recommended against building a planned $54.6 million intermediate school at the Creekside Park Junior High property, and feasibility study findings recommend building the school at the Tomball Innovation Center.

“We’re out of time,” said Jim Ross, TISD’s director of projects and development. “I won’t be able to get it built if we don’t move on.”

The overview

Tomball ISD’s $54 million Intermediate School No. 5 was originally proposed as an elementary school under the district’s 2021 bond, but the project was changed into an intermediate school for fifth and sixth grade in April to accommodate growth.

  • The recommended location for the school is at the Tomball Innovation Center, located at FM 2920 and Hufsmith-Kohrville Road.

  • A feasibility study presented Oct. 10 found that constructing the intermediate school at Creekside Park Junior High would not be a viable option.

  • Sixth graders in the current Creekside Park-area elementary schools would move to the new intermediate school.

The Nov. 13 and 14 protests were held in tandem with an attendance strike in which TISD parents pledged to keep their children home on those days. An online petition in support of the strikes garnered 470 signatures in November.

The families opposed to the project have said the distance to the innovation center concerns them. While the junior high campus is about a mile from the heart of Creekside Park, the innovation center is around 6 miles away depending on the route taken, which parents claim could mean a commute of more than 30 minutes each way.

“I don’t think it’s what’s right for my kids to spend that long in the car or on a bus,” Creekside Park parent Julie Peschang said.

Emily Zaleski, a parent and former teacher in the district, said she will have children in three different schools in the district under this plan.

“I don’t know how it’s realistic to get my kids ... from campus to campus to campus and do all ... the before- [and after-] school activities,” she said.

Put in perspective

Ross presented the findings of an architect’s feasibility study to the board in October. The study by the architectural firm, Huckabee, examined whether the planned intermediate school could be built at Creekside Park Junior High instead of at the Tomball Innovation Center after the district received backlash from Creekside-area parents in April.

Ross said the architect’s feasibility study found if an intermediate school was added at CPJH, it would cause issues including crowding at the junior high and lost athletic field space.

In addition, traffic issues on Creekside Green Drive would require adding a turn lane and traffic light.

Additional underground stormwater detention might also be needed at the junior high site if the intermediate school is located there, and the current utilities might not be sufficient to serve both schools, Ross said. Harris County permits would also be difficult and expensive to obtain at the junior high location.

The feasibility study also identified issues at the junior high site such as:

  • Disruption occurring over the 18-24 month construction period

  • Limited outdoor activity spaces

  • Shared athletic competition field

  • Amenities for each campus would not meet TISD standards

  • Needing an estimated $1.5 million traffic study

  • Permitting costs

  • Needing two-story classroom spaces at new building

What they're saying

“If you don’t want to build on the junior high site, then rent property or build onto the existing schools; use portables. I personally would support practically anything that does not have a long commute for our children,” said Christi Davis, a Timber Creek Elementary School parent

“We continue to make phone calls and visit with individuals, and I continue to be hopeful that we can do what we can do for the students and the community," said Tomball ISD superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora.

“We have been told by our legal counsel that the best course of action is to recognize the efforts of parents but not be involved at this time," said Richard Franks, The Woodlands Township board of directors member.

“[Tomball ISD] proposed a plan to us that they were going to use the bond money for, and that’s not what they’re spending the money on today," said David Swiderski, a Tomball ISD parent.

The context

In addition to discussions about the intermediate school, TISD leaders are evaluating the attendance boundaries for all 23 campuses in the district, including those in Creekside Park. Leaders said they hope to propose the boundary changes to trustees in January.

The discussions around Intermediate School No. 5’s location are not the cause of the district’s ongoing boundary redesign, TISD leaders stated in a Nov. 9 email. However, the introduction of a new intermediate school will help reduce crowding at Creekside Park schools in part because sixth graders will move to the new school, according to district information.

“The continued fast growth across the district and building new schools as part of Bond 2021 are the driving factors [for rezoning],” the email states.

Stay tuned

The TISD board of trustees did not discuss or take action on the school issue at its Nov. 14 meeting. The last TISD regular meeting scheduled in 2023 was held Dec. 11, after press time.

However, at an Oct. 25 meeting of The Woodlands Township board of directors, parents asked if the township could provide additional support in convincing district officials to return to the original plan to prevent students being transported from Creekside Park to Tomball.

While members of the TISD board were present, they did not speak or provide any solutions at the township meeting due to not having full board authorization.

“We’re grateful to be here tonight to listen to parent concerns,” TISD board President Lee McLeod said. “We’ve been listening to parent concerns. ... All of the feedback is helpful. That’s all I can say.”

At the Oct. 25 meeting, township officials requested a town hall meeting with the district to look at possible land sharing opportunities to prevent moving the school, but in a subsequent interview board member Richard Franks said the township would not become involved in the conflict.

About 4,600 students of TISD’s total 22,000 students reside in Creekside Park in The Woodlands.