Fort Bend ISD board votes 4-3 on zoning

By Betsy Dolan

Fort Bend ISD’s three newly elected trustees cast their first dissenting votes against proposed attendance boundary changes and opening a new elementary school in Long Meadow Farms in 2014 at the regular meeting on June 11. Grayle James, David Rosenthal, and Jenny Bailey were elected to the Board of Trustees in May. The proposal passed with the support of board president Jim Rice and other trustees Bruce Albright, Patsy Taylor and Susan Hohnbaum.

Fort Bend ISD’s Building Utilization Committee (BUC) has proposed four school boundary changes for the 2012-2013 school year and were discussed at three public meetings in May. The proposals, according to the BUC, are meant to address overcrowding issues at three elementary schools: Oakland, Cornerstone and Schiff.

• Transfer 12 students who live in the Long Meadow Farms subdivision from Oakland Elementary to Pecan Grove Elementary.

• Students who move into the yet-to-be-built apartments in Telfair would attend Colony Meadows Elementary rather than Cornerstone. The Central Prison Unit site, which currently has zero students, would be re-zoned from Cornerstone to Lakeview Elementary.

• Re-zone the Central Prison Unit site from Satartia Middle School to Garcia Middle School so the feeder pattern would be in line with the elementary school change.

• Move students living in the Stonebrook at Riverstone subdivision from Schiff Elementary to Palmer Elementary.

James questioned the rationale in “disrupting the feeder pattern” in moving students from Schiff to Palmer and asked why Austin Parkway was not considered a viable option because it would keep the feeder pattern intact. The BUC cited distance, noting that Austin Parkway is almost four miles from Stonebrook while Palmer is about the same distance as Schiff.

Jenny Bailey called for a long-term zoning plan and accused the BUC of “piece-meal zoning” by not following the district’s guidelines in regard to keeping feeder patterns intact and utilizing underpopulated schools instead of building new ones.

“I don’t agree with building (elementary school) number 46,” Bailey said. “I think there are many campuses that can be utilized to save money and I think we need to take a long term look at Riverstone. They are selling lots, they are selling homes, they are bursting at the seams. We can’t keep splitting them up.”

But former board president, Susan Hohnbaum disagreed, calling any re-zoning plan “a Catch-22”.

“You have to move kids to balance schools,” Hohnbaum said. “You can’t have it both ways. It’s fine for everyone to move children unless it is their child and I get that but it doesn’t change the situation.”

Trustee, Bruce Albright, praised the work of the BUC but asked them to go even farther by meeting in July to begin implementing the Phase 1 zoning changes and to discuss moving all of the district’s academies into one magnet school.

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