Wednesday, October 28, 2020

School Board Approves CISD Short-term Growth Plan

The Carroll School Board approved a recommendation Monday to purchase portable classrooms for up to three school campuses  to manage student growth short-term and avoid major attendance rezoning so that the Capital Needs Planning Committee can complete its work.

CISD Administrators say portable classrooms will be purchased and set up at Carroll Elementary School, Johnson Elementary School and possibly even Walnut Grove Elementary School for the next couple of years. The Administration will work within the City of Southlake process to obtain approval for the portables, which will likely be used for pull-out programs and other student services rather than as actual homeroom classrooms. This could change if CISD experiences an upswing in student enrollment beyond projections for 2016-2017.

At Walnut Grove Elementary, where the campus is expected to reach about 700 students in the fall of 2016-2017, the short-term plan approved Monday calls for enclosing some common spaces to make additional homeroom classrooms and adding extra temporary support staff to accommodate the larger student population. The staffing plan was not presented Monday, but will come back to the Board for consideration this spring. If additional staff are added temporarily to WGES to help with specials (art, music, PE, etc.) rotations and student management, it could require a portable on that campus, too.

The Administration’s short-term plan avoids rezoning for hundreds of families who would likely have to move to schools in the south before August due to campuses reaching capacity in the north. The work of the citizens and staff on the Capital Needs Planning Committee (CNPC) is expected to be complete by the end of this school year, which would give the Administration more direction on long-term plans to manage student growth. Superintendent David J. Faltys said this committee’s work is critical as the district looks to its Strategic Plan to educate and prepare students for the future.

“The last thing we want to do is rezone a lot of the families along the Southlake Boulevard neighborhoods only to hear a recommendation from the CNPC that would require additional rezoning for those same neighborhoods two years later,” Dr. Faltys said. “We won’t utilize portables long-term, but this short-term plan approved by the Board gives us the opportunity to let the committee complete its recommendation so that we can formulate a long-term plan for Dragon families.”

The Administration had been considering moving the district’s Preschool program to vacant classrooms at the Durham Intermediate School campus. While this still remains a viable option, the Administration and Board agreed that they would wait for the CNPC recommendation to avoid moving that program twice, too. Ultimately, the CNPC may recommend the Durham Intermediate Campus as a future Preschool site; they could also consider construction of a new, stand alone Early Childhood Preschool campus or renovating an existing CISD elementary school to house the EC/Preschool program.

“Moving Preschool to a more permanent home is something we are studying and hope to do soon, but moving them out of the Rockenbaugh Elementary and Carroll Elementary campuses for 2016-2017 would not have eased overcrowding at Johnson and Walnut Grove elementary schools anyway,” Faltys said. “We would still have had to rezone possibly hundreds of families from JES and WGES to the available classrooms in the south. It just makes sense to implement some short-term solutions so that we can formulate a successful long-term plan and minimize movement for our families.”

School Trustees said they agreed with the Administration’s plan and wanted to take a vote so that families know that no major rezoning will occur for 2016-2017. There is one part of the recommendation, however, that calls for the Administration to survey families in the Carroll Elementary split attendance zone to see if they would favor fixing that zone for the coming year.

For years, the district has had five elementary schools feeding into two intermediate schools. For the CES split zone, it means that when fourth graders leave CES, they are divided between Eubanks Intermediate School and Durham Intermediate School. Families who live in the CES zone but reside north of Southlake Blvd (FM1709) saw their children leave their friends and the south feeder system to attend school at DIS and Carroll Middle School.

Carroll’s Board & Community Relations Department will be reaching out to the families affected by this possible change to see how it affects them and whether or not they favor such a move or if they would request being grandfathered (without bus service) to have their children remain in the north feeder system.

“We have heard for years that we should fix this split attendance zone at Carroll Elementary,” said Julie Thannum, Assistant Superintendent for Board & Community Relations. “We are a little concerned that the families who live in these neighborhoods and no longer have elementary students at Carroll, but have students in 5th, 6th and 7th grades, don’t realize that a change to the CES zone actually means their students attending DIS and CMS may lose their daily bus service.”

School officials said they will be diligent about keeping the parents informed and engaged in the process before a final decision on the CES zone is made this spring. At this point, the Board has not made a final decision on this aspect of the recommendation except to get input from the residents most affected. This should happen prior to spring break in March.

Carroll ISD has available classroom space in grades 5-12 and can accommodate projected growth at those levels. The capacity issue is at the elementary grade levels and is primarily a result of housing developments under construction north of Southlake Blvd. The immediate exception is Carroll Elementary where classroom space could be created when the Preschool program is eventually centralized and relocated. CISD is projected to have 2,858 elementary students in the fall of 2016. That number grows to 2,930 by August 2017.

Each portable building purchased by CISD provides two classroom spaces. CES and JES have each had as many as four portables on their campuses in the past. Under the temporary plan for portables approved Monday, CES would open with one portable building next fall, 608 students and would be at 97 percent capacity. Walnut Grove would have possibly one portable, too, with 699 students and be operating at 94 percent capacity. JES would have one portable, 589 students and operate at 95 percent capacity. Old Union Elementary next fall is projected to have 398 students and would be operating at 84 percent capacity, while Rockenbaugh Elementary would have 564 students at 96 percent capacity.

The challenge, according to school officials, is to find neighborhoods in the eastern portion of the district or individuals who could be rezoned to help increase enrollment in the Old Union Elementary School zone. Options discussed but NOT acted on include moving the EC/Preschool program to that campus, which would first require a new classroom addition or rezoning families in the Winding Creek, Grapevine neighborhood down to the OUES, EIS and DMS zone. Other options would be to move Foxborough and other neighborhoods currently zoned to WGES down to OUES or possibly even RES.

“One decision leads to another and that’s why we are making some short-term decisions that will allow our Capital Needs Committee time to finish their work,” said Thannum. “We want a long-term plan that is best for our district, and we appreciate the Board and community’s support as we work to find those solutions.”