With the first of approximately 5,000 homes anticipated in January, the Magnolia ISD board of trustees approved purchasing land in Audubon Magnolia, a master-planned development in the works, for a future elementary school on Nov. 9. The 14-acre site is located along Hwy. 249 and FM 1488 within Audubon Magnolia.

Audubon Magnolia, spanning 3,300 acres, will feature 5,000 single-family homes as well as multifamily and commercial sites, district officials said. The master-planned community stretches both sides of FM 1488 near Mill Creek Road, according to information from the district.

“Obviously we anticipate some heavy increases in student enrollment growth when [the homes] do hit the ground, and we know they’re in the beginning stages of that now," said Erich Morris, MISD assistant superintendent of operations, during the meeting.

Morris said the district's elementary schools are currently at about 66% capacity as a whole, which is an improvement to the approximately 82% capacity the elementary schools were at overall before the district opened its two intermediate schools in August 2018. By drawing fifth grade students from the elementary campuses, another elementary school will likely not be needed for another few years, he said.

“We know the growth is coming, but we do have a cushion there for a couple of years at least," said Morris, referencing five to seven years until the new facility could be needed.

The new school site is located within the existing Williams Elementary attendance zone, which is the highest populated elementary currently at 77-78% capacity, based on a 900-student limit, Morris said.

The board approved purchasing the site for $2.75 per square foot, totaling approximately $1.7 million, Morris said. The land purchase is funded by the district's 2015 bond referendum.

The district's next bond would likely focus on adding additional capacity at the intermediate and junior high levels, Superintendent Todd Stephens said.

"Looking at a master-planned community the size of Audubon is a little bit different for us in Magnolia ISD. It’s the first venture that we’ve had like this," he said. "It’s very exciting to look at the scope and the magnitude of a development like this coming down in Magnolia ISD. ... It’s going to have an impact on Magnolia ISD I think very quickly, if not strictly from the residential standpoint but also from the commercial standpoint."

According to meeting comments, the first two sections of homes in Audubon Magnolia alone could increase the district's tax base by $145 million once homes are completed in January and March, respectively.

"This acquisition here will give us an elementary site on our west side," Stephens said. "It’s going to be ready for us to roll whenever we need to get out there. A lot of the infrastructure’s going to be in place."

Stephens said the district purchased an elementary school site in the May Valley community long ago on the district's east side to accommodate growth, but the district's site for a future elementary school accommodating the west side was divided by the construction of Grand Pines Road, a newly constructed road connecting Nichols Sawmill and Sanders Cemetery roads that opened this spring.

"I think we’re going to want our presence in Audubon. It’s going to redefine what this side of Magnolia looks like, and we want a school in there," Stephens said. "It’s nothing to sneeze [at]. It’s going to make a difference in Magnolia ISD."