Parents wary as Fort Bend ISD implements overcrowding plan
By Betsy Dolan
Fort Bend ISD has launched plans alleviate severe overcrowding at two of its elementary schools located in high growth areas.
Commonwealth Elementary, near Riverstone, and Oakland Elementary, in the northern part of the district, are currently over capacity with the situation getting worse every year, say district officials.
Commonwealth is projected to have 1,248 students next year and 1,500 the following year, double the building’s capacity of 743.
The district plans to build a new elementary school in Riverstone, but the construction will take two years.
The district decided to cap the enrollment at Commonwealth for the next two years and new students will enroll at Austin Parkway Elementary which has been designated as an overflow campus. Colony Bend Elementary is on stand-by as a second elementary overflow campus if needed.
The district initially wanted to move the fifth graders to Fort Settlement Middle School but parents objected.
“We wanted to make sure we allowed enough room to allow siblings of current students to finish up at Commonwealth”, Dr. Phillys Hill, Assistant Superintendent of School Leadership said. “New students will be directed to Austin Parkway as will any new children with dual residences”.
Hill reiterated that parents who currently have children attending Commonwealth and who have homes being built in Riverstone, need to provide proof of residence by June 6.
Parents at Austin Parkway
Elementary are concerned about what extra students might mean.
“We do have some unused space in the portables, but I’m curious to know what “capacity” is. Is it a reasonable number of children per classroom or do we start talking about waivers to get more than 22 kids in a class”, wrote one Austin Parkway parent on FBISD Concerns.
“This will have a terrible effect on APE and consequently on property values in areas zoned to it,” wrote another parent. “Again we have to deal with an issue created by planning permission being issued for new development with no thought as to where the kids of the new families will go to school”.
Oakland Overcrowding Plan
Plans to lessen overcrowding at Oakland Elementary call for a one year plan which includes opening a fifth-grade satellite campus at Bowie Middle School next year. An assistant principal and current fifth grade teachers will staff the satellite center. Additional teachers will be hired for P.E., art and music.
Some of overcrowding at Oakland would have been alleviated with the construction of Elementary School #46 in Aliana which was tentatively scheduled to open in August 2014. But the district opted to postpone construction in June 2013 pending a review of the district’s elementary school boundaries.
In a letter to local media entities, a resident who asked that her name not be used, said not moving ahead with elementary school #46 was a mistake.
“Trustees Dave Rosenthal and Jenny Bailey contributed to FBISD elementary school 45 in Aliana being postponed last year. A new study they wanted proves the school is needed even more than a Riverstone school. Many of us are concerned why one area (Riverstone) would have so much clout and influence on the school district.”
Facilities Master Plan approved
The Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees did unanimously approve the $448 million Facilities Master Plan which calls for the construction of nine elementary schools and two middle schools over the next five years: 3 in the Aliana area each year after #46 is opened and three every year in Sienna after the Riverstone school opens.
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