By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
Leander ISD remains the 12th fastest-growing district in the state of Texas among districts with more than 20,000 students, according to Dr. Stacey Tepera of Population & Survey Analysts, who presented a demographic update to the LISD Board of Trustees on Oct. 15.
The district grew by 831 students over the past year and, as of mid-September, had a total enrollment of 37,042 students. By comparison, Austin ISD lost 833 students over the past year.
“Clearly, it’s the highest-growth district in the Austin area, followed by Hays CISD and Round Rock ISD,” Tepera said. “The district has added almost 4,900 students over the past five years. That’s significant; that’s remarkable.”
While the majority of students live in existing, built-out subdivisions, one major factor of the growth is the construction of new subdivisions in Leander and apartment complexes throughout the district. Thirteen single-family housing subdivisions currently under construction, including Travisso, Crystal Falls, Bryson and Mason Hills among others, are expected to add 23,827 housing units over the next 10 years. The largest development, Travisso, will add 1,969 new houses.
Nine new apartment complexes are also expected to be fully occupied within the next two years, with five of the projects located in or near the Four Points area. The largest multi-family development, Escape at Four Points, has 344 units and is currently 80 percent occupied. Aria at Steiner Ranch has 195 units and is 35 percent occupied. Windy Ridge Apartments are currently under construction on RM 620 near Anderson Mill Road and will have 120 units. Tacara Steiner Ranch just started construction a week or so ago and will bring 246 units to the market. Cardinal Point is expected to break ground in 2016 and will have 120 units.
Tepera said the high number of new multi-family and condo development is a sign that Leander ISD is on its way to being a “mature” district.
“It’s simply a matter of space,” she said. “There are fewer acres left that can be developed as single family homes. As that happens, more multi-family and condo development takes its place.”
Growth still slower than anticipated
While the district continues to grow at a fast rate, the growth has tapered off in recent years, a trend that is occurring in all large suburban districts, Tepera said.
“The past four or five years of deceleration of growth is directly related to…the smaller incoming kindergarten class. It has really become a trend over the past five years,” Tepera said. “In 2005, everybody who wanted a mortgage could get a mortgage. There were a lot of young couples with preschool-aged kids buying houses in Leander ISD in 2005. The kindergarten class was growing astronomically.”
In 2008, the proportion of kindergarten students in Leander ISD was the sixth highest in the state, she said. But as the recession hit and made it harder for young families to get mortgages, the district began to see a drop in kindergarten enrollment numbers.
“The lack of young families moving into the district during the recession really has had an impact on the deceleration over the last few years,” Tepera said.
She said the district continues to attract new families because of the good schools and the perceived quality of life. The district continues to have a low percentage of economically disadvantaged students at only 19.7 percent, high STAAR test passage rates at 83 percent, a highly-educated community with 44 percent having a bachelor’s degree and a high median income level of $81,615.
She said only about 5 percent of LISD residents attend private or charter school, a low number compared to other districts.
Seven new elementary schools planned
The district plans to build seven additional elementary schools over the next 10 years. E.S. 26 is expected to be open in fall 2017 and will relieve overcrowding at Parkside Elementary, located within the Parkside at Mayfield Ranch community in Georgetown. The timetable for ES 27 has moved up by one year from last year’s projections due to the Bryson development in Leander. That school is expected to open in 2019 and would relieve Plain Elementary.
Two new middle schools are planned to be the built, the first being MS 9 in Leander in 2020. It will feed into Glenn High School and would relieve Leander and Wiley middle schools.
One new high school, HS 7, is projected to be needed and would be opened in 2024. The timetable for that school has been pushed back by four years from last year’s projections.
Each of the projections are for planning purposes only and no final decisions have been made by the board.