Meetings reveal preferences for fixing capacity issues at Fort Bend ISD schools

By Betsy Dolan 

Close to 400 people attended two community dialogue sessions at Elkins High School and Travis High School to discuss options for fixing over-crowded and under-utilized schools in Fort Bend ISD.

Surveys taken by the attendees showed that expanding existing schools, building new schools and creating magnet programs at under-capacity facilities are the most popular ideas for fixing overcrowded schools. Adding portables and making operational changes like required online courses or alternate schedules were the least popular.

For under-utilized schools, surveys revealed that changing attendance boundaries, creating magnet programs and using under-capacity schools for district use were highly desirable. Closing schools for non-district use and selective demolition on buildings were the least desirable.

The community dialogue meetings are part of a large-scale effort by Fort Bend ISD to use community input and online surveys to create a facilities master plan by February and a new elementary school boundaries plan by May.

The district also hopes to get community help in adopting a new strategic plan which will include a new mission and vision with the goal of having no achievement gaps and a graduation rate of 100% by 2025.

A steering committee, made up of over 100 community stakeholders, has been meeting to help craft the two plans.

“The work we’re doing has to do with looking at the entire district and all of our facilities and to figure out how we’re going to prepare our students for a 21st century workforce”, said Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre.

Jacobs Engineering was hired by the district to conduct a comprehensive facilities assessment which will look at everything from roofs to technology gaps to classroom square footage.

“One of the key elements of the facilities assessment is educational adequacy–how space meets educational needs. Do our buildings deliver what we need them to deliver?”, said Tracy Richter of Dejong-Richter, an educational consultant hired by the district to oversee the steering committee and community input process.

In the surveys, attendees selected “declining educational adequacy” as the main deterrent in the district achieving its mission, vision and goal. Declining condition of schools, capacity issues and special programs that are not offered at every campus also scored high.

Surveys also indicated that the ideal capacity for elementary schools should be no more than 150 students per grade; no more than 400 students per grade in middle school; and no more than 600 students per grade in high school.

Two more community dialogue meetings will be held in December. The Board of Trustees will vote on the facilities master plan and the district’s strategic plan in February. The elementary school boundary plan discussions will begin in mid-February. In addition, a comprehensive web survey will be available the first two weeks of December.

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