The Carroll School Board agreed to make no changes to the Carroll Elementary school zone for the 2016-2017 school year. School officials had been contemplating a change to the CES zone to ensure that all students in that zone had a consistent feeder system for grades 5-8. However, a decision to change the zone for this next school year could have resulted in multiple changes over the next couple of years and school officials did not want that to happen.
“The decision not to rezone will please some families, but will probably also disappoint those families who had hoped we would create a pure feeder system for the Carroll Elementary students,” said Julie Thannum, Assistant Superintendent for Board & Community Relations. “While we do hope to someday avoid the split zone for CES, we certainly didn’t want to rezone them multiple times over the next couple of years.”
Thannum presented the CISD Administration’s recommendation not to change the zones at the April 18 Board meeting so that a citizen/staff Capital Needs Planning Committee (CNPC) can complete their work. The CNPC is made up of about 40 parent taxpayers and employees studying building capacity and enrollment projections. The group has not yet made recommendations to the Board, but they are expected to do so June 6. Because no decision on a Long-Term Growth Plan has been made, Trustees agreed with the Administration not to make any short-term decisions for CES families.
There are several options being studied by the CNPC that could involve substantial changes to existing attendance zones. Some of the options include adding a sixth elementary school, adding on to each existing elementary building or changing grade configurations housed in each of the existing buildings. School officials have sufficient space in grades 5-12, but expect to exceed elementary classroom capacity over the course of the next several years. Already, Walnut Grove Elementary, Johnson Elementary and Carroll Elementary are experiencing overcrowding. No matter what the final decision is, there will be some changes to elementary attendance zones and some new construction needed.
Currently, students in the CES zone who live north of FM 1709/Southlake Boulevard attend Durham Intermediate and Carroll Middle while their classmates who live south of FM 1709/Southlake Boulevard attend Eubanks Intermediate and Dawson Middle. While this split zone only affects about 50 students each year, CISD has been urged for years to address the split zone and create a pure feeder system so that all CES students can attend grades 5-8 together.
Changes to the CES zone, however, are often met with opposition because families who live in the northern most part of that zone and have already gone through the split would ultimately lose bus service for their students if the zones changed. The district does offer the opportunity for families who are zoned to one school and prefer to attend another the chance to apply for an in-district transfer. That policy, however, comes without bus service.
“No matter when you decide to address the split zone, somebody will be unhappy or lose bus service,” said Thannum. “Rezoning is never popular, but sometimes we have the opportunity to use it as a means to balance enrollment, address overcrowding or create pure feeder systems. They are often hard choices, but sometimes rezoning makes sense.”
In early 2016, the CISD Administration recommended a possible change to the CES zone, but not until a survey was conducted to obtain the input of CES families. “As the work of the CNPC continued, it became clear that we wouldn’t have the answers we needed to conduct the survey this spring and consider changes for the upcoming school year,” said Thannum. “The surveying of families that would be affected by a CES zoning change has also been postponed until the district is closer to making a final decision on a long-term growth plan.”
A small number of families at CES are affected the by the split attendance zone each year and it’s been that way for more than two decades. Although parents are often opposed to their children splitting from their friends, others who have gone through the split zone say their children did fine and actually knew students from both feeder systems by the time they all came together in the ninth grade.
Although there are strong opinions on either side of the issue, School Trustees agreed it was prudent to wait on a decision regarding CES until the CNPC makes a formal recommendation and the Administration and School Board decide how to manage elementary growth long-term. Those families who wanted their fourth grader to remain with friends may apply for an in-district transfer request for the 2016-2017 school year.