LOOKING AHEAD: Fort Bend ISD prepares for future growth (2/25/20)
District staff conducts annual enrollment review, shares plans in place for projected growth in southeastern portion of the District
FORT BEND ISD (February 25, 2020) – During a Board meeting on February 24, 2020, the Fort Bend ISD administration outlined its plans to prepare for the continued enrollment growth projected in the state’s eighth-largest school District. According to Population and Survey Analysts (PASA), the District’s independent, third-party demographer, the District is anticipated to serve nearly 90,000 students by the year 2029. Currently, more than 78,000 thousand students are enrolled at the District’s 81 campuses, with more schools in the pipeline as part of the 2018 Bond Program.
In accordance with Board Policy FC (Local), Fort Bend ISD presented its annual enrollment review, based on PASA’s most recent enrollment projections and each school’s capacity. The goal is to ensure that the District is meeting the needs of all students while utilizing its facilities as efficiently as possible. During Monday’s presentation, the administration noted with the newly-established School Boundary Oversight Committee, or SBOC, that Fort Bend ISD is embarking on a new chapter that will tighten and further refine long-range planning in Fort Bend ISD.
The SBOC, established by the Board in 2019, will begin its work following this year’s annual enrollment review, and will provide input and oversight as the District establishes plans for new campuses and for campuses that are over or under-utilized.
“Managing enrollment growth is one of our greatest challenges, and I am proud of the effective systems we have in place to study where our students will be and how to best use our facilities to serve them,” said FBISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Dupre.
“Managing this growth is more of an art than a science as we must consistently respond to rapid growth that occurs when the economy is strong, and the slowdowns that occur during more austere periods. The members of the SBOC will be valuable advisors, providing insights as we continuously improve efforts to effectively plan for the long-range future of the district.”
Areas of Continued Growth
According to the most recent PASA projections, the most significant growth over the next ten years remains in the far southeastern portion of the District, which includes southern Sienna Plantation and the FM 521 Corridor from TX-6 to the Brazoria County line. In anticipation of this growth, the 2018 Bond Program, approved by voters in November of 2018, included funding for several schools in this area, including land purchases and construction of new elementary and secondary schools.
Monitoring enrollment trends and planning for future growth is a continuous process in Fort Bend ISD, which has opened seven schools since 2015. While other schools are in various stages of the planning process, Fort Bend ISD uses a variety of alternative student enrollment options to help manage growth and minimize disruption for students.
Staff outlined plans in place following the 2020 enrollment review, which includes efforts to recruit and retain students at under-utilized campuses, and limiting future enrollment at several campuses until more permanent solutions can be put in place, such as the opening of the new schools included in the bond program.
“Conducting our annual enrollment review is an important part of FBISD’s planning process, as we always want to make sure that we are building schools ‘just in time,’” said Dupre.
“The latest demographic projections demonstrate the continued need for the schools that were included in our last voter-approved bond program, and we are putting plans into place to manage this growth and minimize disruption to our students until the new schools can come online. This includes the addition of portable classroom buildings in some instances, and when necessary, limiting future enrollment so that we can provide the very best learning environments for our students. While this so-called “Cap and Overflow” implementation is never taken lightly, this step allows us to ensure that all of our students have access to appropriate resources, staff and safe learning environments for all.”
During Monday’s enrollment review, staff outlined recommendations to limit future enrollment at select schools that are projected to be over-utilized. In the coming weeks, staff will continue to further develop these plans and provide updates to the Board and the community as the plans are finalized.
• Heritage Rose Elementary – The administration is recommending that future enrollment be limited to kindergarteners and only students in first through fifth grade who live within two miles of the school. Students outside of this two-mile area would attend Scanlan Oaks Elementary. A future elementary school, Elementary 54, is expected to relieve some overutilization of Heritage Rose. Land for this school has been identified in Sienna and the purchase is currently pending as part of the 2018 Bond Program.
• Sienna Crossing Elementary – The administration is recommending that future enrollment be limited to kindergarteners and only students in first through fifth grade who live within two miles of the school. Students outside of this two-mile area would attend Schiff Elementary. A future elementary school, Elementary 55, will relieve overutilization of Sienna Crossing Elementary and would be funded in a future bond program. During Monday’s discussion, Board members asked the administration to consider allowing students to apply for elective transfers from Sienna Crossing Elementary to Schiff Elementary. The Board also directed the administration to provide considerations to expedite the construction of Elementary 55, including the possible construction of Elementary 55 using funds included in the 2018 Bond Program designated for Elementary 52 in the developing Parks Edge community.
• Commonwealth Elementary –Continued limitation of enrollment: The administration is recommending that the District continue to limit new enrollment to kindergarteners and students in first through fifth grade who live within two miles of the school. Students outside of this two-mile area attend Settlers Way Elementary. Elementary 53, located in the Riverstone Community, will relieve the overutilization of Commonwealth Elementary. This land purchase is in the final stages, and the school is expected to open in the 2022-23 school year.
• Ridge Point High School – The administration is recommending that future enrollment be limited to only new students who live within two miles of the school, with students outside of the two-miles attending Hightower High School. This would remain in place until the activation of an attendance boundary for High School 12, which was included in the 2018 Bond Program. Fort Bend ISD closed on the land for High School 12 this month, and the plan is for the school to open in 2022.
Once the cap and overflow is implemented:
Incoming freshmen students (currently enrolled 8th graders who reside within the RPHS attendance boundary) who live inside and outside of the two mile walk area will attend Ridge Point High School.
Only newly enrolling students who live within two miles of the school will attend Ridge Point High School.
All newly enrolling students who live outside of the two mile area will attend Hightower High School.
School Boundary Oversight Committee – Inaugural work and long-range planning
Aside from the previously-adopted Phase 2 boundary changes for Lakeview Elementary, there will be no additional boundary changes for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. As outlined in Board Policy, the SBOC will meet in March to review the 2020-21 Annual Enrollment Review, PASA’s Demographic Update, and the 2020 Updates to the 2018 Facilities Master Plan.
During the February 24 meeting, the District staff also updated the Board on the future boundary work to be considered by the newly-established School Boundary Oversight Committee (SBOC), which, moving forward, will help provide a tighter, more formal boundary process that will allow for feedback while also valuing the data and long-range projections. The SBOC is comprised of four representatives (parents and community members) from each high school feeder pattern. The purpose of the committee is to review student enrollment projections and provide input regarding school boundary recommendations. The SBOC will also be involved with gaining community input on any proposed school boundary recommendations by holding public hearings in any area that could be affected.
The administration will recommend that the inaugural work of the SBOC include a boundary change that will allow for the full implementation of the Early Literacy Center at Ridgemont Elementary, rezoning all 2-5 grade students to other schools in the feeder pattern.
Staff also presented plans for the SBOC to consider boundaries related to the opening of the District’s 12th high school scheduled to open in the 2022-23 school year. In the fall of 2020, the administration will provide an update as to how the boundary will be implemented following the work of the SBOC and engagement with the community through public hearings. To the extent possible, these boundary changes would be implemented for the 2021-22 school year to relieve Ridge Point High School.
As staff outlined the inaugural work of the SBOC, the District also noted that the committee would play an important role in long-range planning.
“Over the next few years, the SBOC would be charged with looking at areas of the District that are both “hot” and “cold,” said Fort Bend ISD Chief Academic Officer Beth Martinez.
“We, like our Board and many in our community, are very concerned that we also have a number of schools that are under-utilized, and we will need to engage with the SBOC to make sure that we are effectively managing enrollment in all schools, in accordance with PASA’s ten year projections.”
Fort Bend ISD is also actively working to recruit and retain students through a partnership with Caissa Public Strategy. Student recruitment will focus on students who have left FBISD for charter schools while simultaneously working to retain students by decreasing out-of-district transfers. Caissa’s efforts will include direct phone calls, grassroots canvassing field teams and other direct communications with parents of previous or potential students.