By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Hill Country News
Amid a sea of numbers, percentages and geographic trends, the message to Leander ISD was more of the same from its demographer – get ready for about 1,000 more students next year.
The trend has continued for years, and while growth has migrated more to the north end of the district, LISD has remained the fastest growing district in Central Texas in numbers, and one of the fastest in the state.
At a projected low-growth rate, LISD – which currently has about 37,000 students enrolled – is expected to have more than 45,000 students by 2026. If growth continues on a faster pace it could top 53,000.
“What the demographer has pointed out to us is that we’re growing at about 1,000 students per year at our current rate and we are going to continue for at least the next 10 years to grow at a similar rate,” said LISD Superintendent Dan Troxell.
The numbers were broken down further by area of growth and housing trends, but the bottom line translated to a continued need for an additional campus about every two years, primarily elementary schools.
“One thousand kids a year equates to more than one elementary school every year,” Troxell said. “The other thing is kids don’t come to us in neat little packages, and that’s what the demographer has pointed out that the kids come in spread throughout the district.”
Troxell said currently elementary campuses are built for 800 students, middle schools for 1,200 and high schools for 2,400.
The heavy growth in the district will continue to be on the north end in Leander, where most of the new housing is being built. The projections show that the primary enrollment growth this year will be in new housing, with a slight decline in built-out subdivisions in the central and southern portion of the district. More than 41,000 total new housing occupancies are anticipated by 2026.
To keep pace with the growth, elementary school number 26 is under construction now, and the district owns land for campuses 27-31. While none have been funded beyond owning the land and having a standard design in hand, it is anticipated LISD will open a new elementary school about every two years through 2026 if trends continue. The standard design will help the district save about $500,000 on each new project. Each school costs about $30 million.
“The funds for 27 through 31 are what we have to sit down as an administrative team and work through,” Troxell said. “How do we get to build four elementary schools in the next eight years? How do we build another middle school in the next three years? That’s what we have not put together at this point.”
Troxell said the district would continue to look for the most cost-effective way to accommodate the fast growth, but there was no solution that did not include added costs.
“When you have fast growth you are going to have debt,” he said. “Sometimes people want to know if there is a way to accommodate 1,000 students per year without building buildings? My answer is no educator has figured that out to this point.”
See part two of the breakdown of Leander ISD’s demographic information next week as we look at ways the administration can handle the growth issues in the central and southern portions of the district.