Parents react to proposed attendance zone for new RRISD school

Officials are proposing the attendance zone at Round Rock ISD's new elementary school include half of the students currently attending Wells Branch and a small portion of the students from Bluebonnet Elementary School.

Officials are proposing the attendance zone at Round Rock ISD's new elementary school include half of the students currently attending Wells Branch and a small portion of the students from Bluebonnet Elementary School.

Under the proposal, students who live south of SH 45 N, west of I-35, east of the Jollyville area and north of the Wells Branch area would attend the new school.[/caption]

Parents at Wells Branch Elementary School voiced concerns about Round Rock ISD’s 34th elementary school at a Nov. 10 public hearing.

The new school will be located at 2800 Sauls Drive near Bratton Lane in the Wells Branch neighborhood. School officials are proposing an attendance zone to include half of the students attending Wells Branch Elementary and a small portion of students from Bluebonnet Elementary School in Round Rock.

Wells Branch parent Matt Bucher said he is worried about the distribution of economically disadvantaged students. Wells Branch has a population of 50 percent economically disadvantaged students; the revised attendance zone would result in an 8 percent increase in that population, he said. The new elementary school would start with an economically disadvantaged population of only 44 percent, he said.

The proposal puts the new school in a position to be the superior school, Bucher said, and it could result in lower property values for homeowners in Wells Branch Elementary School’s revised attendance zone.

RRISD Chief Operating Officer Bob Cervi said he would look into lessening the percentage of economically disadvantaged students, but the district had to take multiple factors into account when creating the proposal, including anticipated growth in both attendance zones, dual-language students and the economically disadvantaged population.

“It’s sort of a tight rope and juggling act,” Cervi said.

Other parents asked what special programs or dual-language programs would be offered at the new school and at Wells Branch once the new boundary lines are drawn.

Wells Branch parent Deborah Thompson asked if students would be able to transfer into whichever school offered a special program, even if they reside outside of that school’s attendance zone.

Carla Amacher,  RRISD executive director of elementary schools, said the district is still exploring options for special programs in all of its schools, including whether students would be able to transfer.

If Wells Branch fifth graders want to remain at their school for the final year of elementary school in the 2016-17 school year—when the new school is expected to open—they would likely be able to, Amacher said. She also said students already involved in special programs outside of their attendance zone would be able to stay in those programs.

Corey Ryan, RRISD executive director of communications and community relations, said many residents have asked how the new school would affect traffic.

Fritz Klabunde, RRISD transportation director, said six buses serve that area of the district, and it did not plan to add more buses. He said traffic should improve because many students will live closer to the new school than Wells Branch, which means more students will walk and parents and buses will have less distance to travel.

Klabunde also said county and city officials are planning to extend Grand Avenue Parkway to help ease traffic congestion, which would also help transport students to the new school more quickly. Klabunde said he did not know when the road project was scheduled to take place.

RRISD board of trustees is scheduled to discuss the attendance zones at its Nov. 19 meeting at Round Rock High School. The board will likely vote on a final attendance zone Dec. 17.

More information on the new school is available on Round Rock ISD's website.