FBISD board reviews school zoning and capacity options
By Betsy Dolan
A combination of new construction, school additions and new boundaries are possible solutions to fix capacity and zoning problems and projected growth in the state’s seventh largest school district.
Fort Bend ISD’s Board of Trustees reviewed the preliminary report by educational facility planning firm Dejong-Richter at a December 16 board workshop. The board also reviewed a preliminary assessment from Jacobs Engineering which found $448 million in facility needs over the next five years.
“The probability of you addressing all $448 million is very slim”, Tracy Richter of Dejong-Richter told the board. “There is a financial cap that you’re going to have because the community will not support things past a certain point.”
The Dejong-Richter report was the result of a series of community dialogue meetings and an online survey that looked at the three geographic planning areas in the district: Area A in the north and west; Area B in the south and Area C in the east.
Richter said 1,100 people attended the meetings and 1,500 online and written surveys were submitted.
“Community meetings can get uncomfortable but your community did not, at any point, make this process uncomfortable”, Richter said. “They came with a concern, expressed their concern and left feeling like they had been heard”.
The Dejong-Richter report shows that Area A will continue to grow very rapidly over the next five years with new elementary schools as the most pressing need. Several schools are already stressed from the growth in the area including Oakland at 143%, Holley at 131% and Cornerstone at 129%. Options include building additions at over-utilized schools and add two or three new elementary schools including one in Aliana.
“Not building an elementary school in this area is not an option”, Richter told the board. “Part of the recommendation is the district’s need to absorb land when you can because you’re going to need it”.
Area B also has several elementary schools that are over-utilized including Commonwealth at 140% and Townewest at 128%. One option calls for building a larger elementary school on the Townewest site and renovating Lakeview. New and existing apartments could mean adjusting feeder patterns to alleviate additional over-crowding. At the middle school level, options include an addition to First Colony Middle School and turning Lake Olympia Middle School into a transportation facility for the district. Richter told the board that high schools are “starting to feel pinching” in terms of capacity at Kempner, Elkins, and Clements.
Area C shows elementary schools over-utilized but high schools among the most under-utilized in the district. Options include building additions at Scanlon Oaks, Schiff, and Sienna Crossing and building two or three new elementary schools including one in Sienna South. Ridgemont Elementary, which needs $5.5M in repairs would be turned into an Early Childhood/Pre-K center. Willowridge High School, which is only at 50% utilization and needs $20M in repairs would be torn down and a smaller high school built on the same site. Blue Ridge Elementary, which is located next to an industrial site, would be closed and a new elementary school built on the Willowridge site. Heritage Rose Elementary, which is under-utilized at 50% would be turned into a middle school. Plans also call for another high school to be built to relieve overcrowding at Ridge Point.
There will be two steering committee meetings in January to discuss the options and present a formal plan to the board. In February the board will approve the five year Facilities Master Plan and the District Strategic Plan. The elementary school boundary plan will not be discussed until the spring. All of the information from the Jacobs report and the Dejong-Richter report are available on the district’s website.
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