By APRIL GARNER, Four Points News
Leander ISD is going through a rezoning exercise to see how balancing school attendance across its schools could help maximize the use of existing buildings and delay the need to build more schools in the near future. But parents in the Four Points area are speaking out. Many have signed a petition asking the LISD Board of Trustees not to go forward with the scenarios being presented which would, for example, bus students out of River Place and send them to Steiner Ranch. The petition cites traffic and safety as primary reasons against the rezoning ideas.
LISD is the fastest-growing school district in the Austin metro area and one of Texas’s most rapidly growing districts. That growth, however, is uneven, with the northern parts of the district currently outpacing growth compared to other parts of the district including Four Points which is the southern part of the district. Some LISD schools are over their functional capacities while others have room to spare. To maximize the use of facilities district-wide, the LISD Board of Trustees developed several district-wide rezoning exercises to address the issue.
According to a LISD article by Superintendent Bruce Gearing, the exercise is intended “to show what an attendance zoning scenario could look like if we prioritize balancing enrollments and maximizing building utilization. [It] will help inform decision-making [but is] not an official proposal.” The exercise re-draws attendance zones starting with the 2023-24 school year.
Impact on Four Points
The Four Points area includes Vandegrift HS and its feeder middle schools, Canyon Ridge and Four Points. Currently, Laura Bush, River Ridge and Steiner Ranch Elementary Schools feed into CRMS while Rive Place and Grandview Hills elementary school students attend FPMS. Those feeder patterns would change according to the rezoning exercise report.
Matt Mitchell, Leander ISD’s spokesperson, says, “The zoning exercise was informational. It was a one-time presentation meant to inform decision-making going forward.” The LISD Board of Trustees will resume zoning discussions at their next meeting this week on January 13.
Biff Farrell, acting president of the Viper Nation Academic Booster (which is in the process of dissolving) has a different take on the LISD board’s motivation for the redistricting exercise: “They throw out some ‘general ideas’ to get everyone all fired up. However, if LISD can get the exact same bond to pass that already failed, then they probably won’t have to look at rezoning,” according to Farrell.
In November, proposition A of the bond proposal that would have provided funding for five new schools did not pass. “Maybe they should figure out why the bond didn’t pass and make some amendments to it rather than forcing the exact same package down our throats,” said Farrell.
According to the rezoning exercise, 187 students in the southern part of LWBE’s attendance zone would instead attend River Ridge, while 290 students currently zoned for Steiner Ranch Elementary would move to LWBE in the 2023-24 school year. This would allow room at SRE for 176 students to move from River Place Elementary and 66 students from Grandview Hills Elementary.
While River Ridge is currently at 150 percent operating capacity, a 2020 demographics report shows it trending downward, falling to only 65 percent by 2023. The exercise shifts students to alleviate future overcrowding at River Place and, to a lesser extent, at Grandview Hills.
In this scenario, LWBE, GHE, and RRE students would feed into the same middle schools they do now, while Steiner and River Place elementary students would be split between CRMS and FPMS.
The exercise has 327 students rezoned from FPMS to CRMS, making room at Four Points for 733 students now set to attend Cedar Park Middle School. While all three schools are currently under 100 percent operating capacity, this shift will alleviate the projected increase in population at Cedar Park in the coming years.
Parents of students who would be rezoned from FPMS to CRMS have already begun to take action in response to the rezoning exercise. River Place attorney Amber Russell gathered more than 80 signatures on a petition asking the board not to go forward with the scenario that buses students from the neighborhoods of Glenlake, Westminster Glen, Long Canyon, the Preserve at Four Points and River Place to Steiner’s CRMS.
“We want to make it clear from the beginning that this is not going to work before the board puts time and effort into it,” said Russell, whose children currently attend RPE and FPMS. “Traffic issues are what I spend all day looking at. I can’t imagine trying to get all those buses through the 2222 and 620 intersection. I don’t want our kids exposed to that.”
The petition cites the fact that both FPMS and CRMS can each only be accessed by one road in and out, which presents more traffic challenges than in other parts of LISD. The signers are concerned about increased traffic, road safety and their children’s wellbeing if their commute to school increases from under 10 minutes to 30 minutes each way.
Currently, CRMS and FPMS both feed into VHS. The exercise has a little under half of the FPMS students rezoned for Cedar Park High School.
In the report, 466 students from the southern part of Cedar Park High School attendance zone would be rezoned for Vandegrift to allow CPHS to take on students from Vista Ridge and Glenn high schools. Vandegrift’s population is projected to trend downward from the 2022-2023 school year, making this shift possible.
Russell says, of the petition against rezoning FPMS students to CRMS, “The community is motivated.” She obtained four pages of signatures and still had people asking her when they could come by and sign it. They are concerned that the LISD Board of Trustees is not aware of the unique traffic issues the Four Points area faces. She said, “If I can speak up and advocate for our kids, I’m going to do it. I hope this petition will nip it in the bud.”