Leander ISD Q&A on repurposing a Steiner Ranch school 

Leander ISD hosted a community forum on March 6 at Vandegrift where the district shared a presentation about why LISD is considering repurposing two of the eight schools in the southern part of the district. 

Laurelyn Arterbury, LISD chief of staff, shared a presentation and after the event, Four Points News conducted a Q&A to get more clarity on the subject.

1. Since the March 6 forum, is there a better answer on when it could be determined that a Steiner Ranch school will be closed and repurposed? 

As presented at the February 7, 2023 board meeting, the demographic projections show that in the 2024-2025 school year we are projected to have 1,356 students at Steiner Ranch, Bush and River Ridge elementary campuses. This number of students could be served on two campuses. 

The timeline presented that evening was for discussion purposes only to show that any decision to repurpose a campus would include 18-24 months notice for students, staff and families. Should the decision be made to begin the repurposing discussions in the fall 2023, the earliest a campus could be reopened would be the 2026-2027 school year. 

Should the district choose to postpone these repurposing discussions and await more information from our demographer in the fall 2023, then the timeline would be adjusted accordingly. Again, no final decisions have been made regarding any timeline for repurposing.

2. Which school is being considered for repurposing and why? 

Based on our latest demographic projections, there are three elementary schools in the Steiner Ranch area – Steiner Ranch, Bush and River Ridge – that show a combined 1,356 students in the 2024–25 school year, a number that could be served on two campuses. 

As part of the current iteration of the Long-Range Plan, the district also will identify two central-area elementary schools for modified utilization. 

There is not a single percentage that would cause the district to repurpose a school, but rather we are looking at trends of declining enrollment in a specific geographic area. We would also consider the proximity of other campuses in the area to ensure that students are not asked to travel too far to attend another campus. The district’s threshold in 

identifying underutilized campuses is 80%. 

The Long Range Planning Committee is beginning the work to identify the parameters that impact a decision to recommend the repurposing of a district facility. 

3. The district used the demographer’s reports over the last 15-20 years to build the LISD schools in the south to accommodate growth in student population. Now, what seems a short time later, demographer data shows a large decrease in student population. 

a. Was it a mistake to build this much in the south to begin with? 

b. Do the housing trends of the communities in the south create a different outcome than what was expected with more empty nesters staying in the homes they raised their families in, and the fact that the properties are more expensive than what a typical young family can afford? 

The booming population growth in the south – and other areas of the district – over the past 15 to 20 years did not leave the district with any alternatives but to build additional campuses to meet the student enrollment in that area at the time. 

Fast-growth school districts experience a unique set of challenges – both on the front-end of the growth and on the back-end as the community is built out and the rate of growth decreases. Regeneration happening slower or to a lesser degree than forecasted, along with whether housing prices attract families with elementary-aged children, all become factors our demographer uses to build out projections. 

So I would not necessarily describe it as a different outcome than what was expected some 20 years ago. Moreso that we’re experiencing a different set of challenges than we were then.

4. After the March 6 meeting, is the district’s approach to this south repurposing consideration any different than before the meeting and if so, how? 

I would not say the approach has changed, but it has allowed us to more clearly articulate next steps and collect information about the Long-Range Plan that has been shared over the past year. 

The district has not engaged in a repurposing process prior, so we will need to partner with our community to gather input on how this process will look in our district when it begins in the future. The Long-Range Planning Committee is beginning the work to identify the parameters that impact a decision to recommend the repurposing of a district facility. 

Again, no final decisions have been made regarding any timeline for repurposing. The May 2023 bond package was developed with projects that would address district needs for the next three years. Placing repurposing projects on this bond election would allow for continued discussions with the community about repurposing so that when decisions are confirmed, the district would have the financial ability to begin work on these projects.