A complex and comprehensive look at the future of Fort Bend ISD schools in regards to growth patterns and projected school closings and transfigurations as a result of growth will be explored this week.
After multiple community sessions where proposed options were discussed, and community input encouraged, the facilities steering committee will discuss their findings in one of two three-hour meetings at FBISD headquarters. The session will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 26, and a new meeting has been added for May 8.
Among the options under consideration are:
- Rezoning the schools to create balance in enrollment;
- Closing Meadow Brook Elementary
- Converting Hightower or Marshall high school into dedicated early college high schools, which would replace all current academy programs distributed among all high schools;
- Consider a rezoning process to balance enrollment between Ridge Point, Hightower, Willowridge and Marshall high schools;
- Closing and repurposing Blue Ridge, Briargate, and Ridgegate elementary schools with a major renovation at Ridgemont Elementary School to create a pre-K-1 building focusing on early literacy. Then creating a new 1,200 student 2-5 grade building on the Shadow Creek Ranch site;
- Closing and repurposing only Blue Ridge Elementary with major renovations at Briargate, Ridgegate and Ridgemont elementaries;
- Building another elementary school to provide relief for Madden and Neil elementaries; and
- Consider additions to Commonwealth, Colony Meadows, Austin Parkway, and Settlers Way elementaries and rezoning to balance enrollment.
“These options were developed by the community-based Facilities Steering Committee after a review of preliminary facilities assessment data from each school and an initial review of the overall educational environment at each district facility. We are also asking all stakeholders – those with students and those without – to engage and have their voices heard. We are developing a recommendation for the board to consider for approval in May, and these decisions will impact each school in the district for a very long time,” FBISD Superintendent Charles Dupree said in a prepared statement.
“Some considerations may involve future attendance boundary adjustments, but as I have stated before, we are not making any attendance boundary changes for the 2018/2019 school year,” Dupree explained.
The community meetings attracted more than 4,000 people, according to district officials.
To gauge community input, there were also online surveys. The district noted that “there were organized attempts to flood the survey with duplicate responses. For example, more than 5,400 responses were collected from three IP addresses and all responses were identical and submitted less than three minutes apart overnight,” according to the 25-page summary report. An IP address shows which computer the information came from.
The options were presented to the board March 26 and the district held community meetings the first two weeks of April at Travis, Marshall, Elkins and Austin high schools. Comments were also gathered in written statements after each hearing and in the online survey. So the Cooperative Strategies Group, which facilitated the hearings, also created a 1,200-page report to include all the responses.
The results of the survey questions are shown in two ways: all respondents regardless of duplicate IP addresses, and IP addresses that submitted less than five surveys.
As would be expected, there is great controversy over closing schools and also busing children to other neighborhoods.
“It should be noted that this engagement process is intended to collect feedback and generate ideas and that all ideas are given equal weight,” the 25-page summary stated.
Participants from Sienna Plantation and Riverstone communities didn’t mince words in their feelings about changes. Some threatened to sue or take their child out of the district if they were forced to attend a different school.
“My daughter is going to graduate from Ridgepoint 2021. I will send her to a private school before she is forced to attend Hightower!!! Unacceptable!!!” wrote one parent from Sienna.
Another parent from Riverstone wrote, “I do not hear good things about Marshall, Willowridge, and Hightower. I pay way too many taxes living in Riverstone to have my child’s educational options be devalued.”
Someone suggested the district look at how it spending its money and address disparities among the schools.
“Invest in Hightower High School to make it equal to Dulles or Clements and then rezoning students in this school will not be a problem whether it is a college center or a regular high school,” wrote a parent.
Residents in the newly annexed communities are expressing concern their children could not be attending neighborhood schools.
“I live in Telfair and am concerned that ideas of sending our students to another school are even being entertained,” one said.
“We are not paying high property taxes to Title 1 schools such as Holley Elementary School,” wrote another.
There were also complaints that the proposed changes do not address the growth in Sienna Plantation.
On the idea of closing three elementary schools and sending the children to Shadow Creek one parent wrote, “First, it would send a message to our community that our neighborhoods aren’t worth rebuilding in. Our students would have to be bused away from their neighborhood to a brand new school built in a neighborhood that has made it very clear that they do not want to partner with us. Shadow Creek has very vocally and publicly attempted to leave FBISD and said disparaging things about our students and our community.
“Secondly, this option would take over 1,000 students with high academic, social, and emotional needs from three different neighborhoods and place them all in one building,” a parent said. “If FBISD truly wants to INSPIRE and EQUIP our students for the future they will invest in our neighborhood rather then tear it down and bus the students out.”
The next meeting will be 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at 3119 Sweetwater Blvd. and again May 1 in Administration Annex Main Auditorium.