By KIM ESTES, Four Points News
Growth in Leander Independent School District has slowed, according to the annual demographic update presented by Population and Survey Analysts to the LISD board of trustees meeting in its regular session on Thursday.
PASA representative, Stacey Tepera, told trustees at the Oct. 9 meeting that deceleration was unexpected.
LISD board president, Pamela Waggoner, interpreted the slow down as “good news” saying it gives the District time to “get some things paid for… and build the tax base.”
Even with deceleration, using state enrollment projections, PASA predicted the district’s student population would continue to grow, increasing from the current 36,192 to 49,572 by the year 2024.
The group also projected a need for as many as 10, possibly 11, new schools by the same time. Two of those schools, Elementary School No. 25 and High School No. 6, are currently under construction. The possibility of another middle school, No. 10, is not slated until 2024.
Trustees commissioned PASA to analyze the 200-square-mile LISD service area for long-range planning purposes. PASA, located in College Station, is the largest demographic firm in Texas. Its forecasts are based on school district information, student residential locations, housing trends, and economic factors.
Fewer students added
Tepera said LISD added 742 new students in 2014 — more than any other Austin area district. Also, compared with other major metropolitan areas within Texas, Leander ranked 13th for highest percentage growth, 2.1, among districts of 20,000 or more students.
Yet, the enrollment number was actually less compared to the previous three years when the local student population grew annually by more than 1,000.
Slow in growth
PASA provided several reasons for the slow down. Specifically, according to the report, LISD now has fewer students in early childhood through first grade. The report states that, “This results in a deceleration of growth in future years, as larger classes graduate and are replaced by smaller incoming classes.”
Furthermore, although new home construction tracked with past projections, purchasing power resided with more established families who do not have school-age children or who have children older than elementary age.
Similarly, fewer elementary students moved into existing homes. This decline was actually noticed in 2013, but thought to be a one-year anomaly. Demographers wrote, “… this year’s data clearly indicates a downward trend … PASA has therefore changed our projections model to reduce the projected regeneration of built-out subdivisions with young students.”
Regardless, PASA predicted almost 39,000 new housing units in the coming decade, including multi-family units.
Additionally, the report noted, unique LISD qualities that could influence growth are
- a low percentage of students on free/reduced lunches — third lowest of large districts in the state,
- one of the highest educational levels among residents in any large Austin area district — second only to Lake Travis ISD,
- one of the highest passage rates for the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness of any large district in the Austin area, second only to Round Rock ISD. Also, out of 60 large state districts, LISD captured 11th place for STARR results.
Ultimately, PASA proposed a long-range planning scenario based on moderate growth and the state projected enrollment of 49,572 in 2024.
Demographers suggested Leander ISD would need seven elementary schools, possibly two new middle schools as well as two new high schools. The new sites should be located in the more northern points of the district.
Elementary plans include Elementary School No. 25, or Camacho Elementary, scheduled to open in 2015-2016. ES 26 is scheduled for 2017. A timeline for the remaining five schools spans 2020 to 2023.
In five or six years, Running Brushy Middle School and Leander Middle School are expected to exceed capacity. Although expansion of those campuses could be a short-term solution and postpone MS 9, the plan still suggested it for 2020. The report also noted that MS 10, previously postponed, has begun to “creep back” into the 10-year plan for 2024.
Finally, the report concluded that High School 6 is under construction, but No. 7 would become a potential need around 2020.
The demographic report, numbering 290 pages, and a shorter presentation summary is available under “Community — Demography Reports” on the LISD website at leanderisd.org.