By Betsy Dolan
In an about-face from their year-long plan to build Elementary School #46 in the Aliana subdivision, the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees voted June 10 to postpone construction.
New Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre urged board members and the community to support the construction delay so the district could create a long range re-zoning plan that better utilizes existing facilities.
“I’ve been hearing from the community that re-zoning has been done hastily and without a plan,” Dupre said. “Stakeholders do not want any more money spent until we are using the facilities we have.”
Trustee Susan Hohnbaum expressed concerns about the 1,100 students at Oakland Elementary. Elementary #46 would have helped alleviate overcrowding at Oakland when it opened in August 2014.
Dupre vowed to work with Oakland’s principal to bring in additional administrators or portable classrooms to help with the overcrowding situation.
Postponing construction would allow the district to develop a 5-7 year re-zoning plan that would give parents information about when new schools would open, how neighborhoods would be affected and hopefully minimize the number of moves students would have to make, Dupre said.
The district is currently conducting a facility needs assessment and will seek extensive public input on that as well as the long range re-zoning plan.
Bumpy road for Elementary #46
The past year has been rocky for the district regarding Elementary School #46. A complaint filed a year ago by Sugar Land resident Nancy Dunham, accused Trustee Bruce Albright of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). Albright was accused of making a motion to include a vote on the new elementary school without adequate public notice prior to the meeting.
On June 11, 2012, the BOT was discussing four re-zoning proposals by the Building Utilization Committee, The BUC proposals had originally included the August 2014 opening date of Elementary School #46 but the new school was not included in the June 11 agenda. When Board President Jim Rice asked for a motion to approve the four re-zoning proposals, Albright made a motion to amend the plan to include the opening date of Elementary School #46. The amended measure passed 4-3.
Even though Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey declined to pursue the TOMA complaint, Fort Bend ISD decided to negate the June 2012 vote. The district put the proposed re-zoning and opening of elementary school No. 46 as two separate items on the August 13, 2012 agenda. The August vote on Elementary School #46 was unanimous.
Parents vent on Facebook
Fort Bend ISD parents who support a long rage re-zoning plan and parents who are upset that Elementary School #46 will not open next August, have been venting on the FBISD Concerns Facebook page.
“If FBISD considers the way to deal with overcrowding is stuffing kids into portable classrooms, feeding them lunch at 9 in the morning or bussing kids all over town, we won’t be considered competition for long to neighboring districts,” one parent wrote.
After some parents complained on Facebook that they had bought homes in Aliana because of the promise of a new school, another parent wrote, “It is not the responsibility of the taxpayers to provide amenities to a planned development. We should build schools based on need.”
In recent days, Trustee Bruce Albright has formed a Facebook page called Fort Bend ISD Real Deal to counter some of the views expressed on the FBISD Concerns page. In particular, Albright has been sparring with parent Kris Allfrey who has criticized Albright’s amended vote on Elementary School #46 last June and his support of the iAchieve initiative.
The board’s next meeting is July 8. Some parents on the FBISD Concerns page are hoping to push for an expanded re-zoning plan to include middle schools and high schools.