After listening, LISD begins redefining school repurposing 

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

After community pushback and feedback from two public meetings, Leander ISD is shifting how it’s thinking about the idea of closing and repurposing an elementary school in Steiner Ranch.

“We have listened to the community, and we understand that there is a strong desire to keep neighborhood schools open,” said Superintendent Bruce Gearing, after last week’s April 4 Special Board Meeting. 

Proposition A in the May 6 bond election includes a combined $161 million for repurposing projects. LISD had it listed on proposed plans to close and repurpose one elementary school in Steiner Ranch a couple of years from now. The district did not identify which elementary school.

“(Now) we believe that there are ways to repurpose campuses that keep schools open while addressing district needs and also bringing some exciting, engaging new opportunities to neighborhood schools,” Gearing said. “For example, instead of closing underutilized schools and repurposing them for a different use, portions of those schools can be repurposed to achieve the goal of maximizing use of our facilities.” 

Ideas of LISD’s shift were first mentioned to the public at the end of the April 4 Special Board Meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, multiple members of the Four Points community spoke during the comment section. They shared why they are against closing an elementary school in Steiner Ranch. Here are some of those comments:

Speaker #1 

“PASA’s (Population and Survey Analysts’) report from 2011 forcased that we would have almost 3,000 elementary students in Steiner Ranch, based on this these elementary schools would be at 116 percent capacity,” he said. “We need to improve our elementary long range forecasting. U.S. Census Bureau data shows Steiner has the largest population of 0-4 year-olds since 2011 and this means our elementary schools will see a huge increase in enrollment in just a few years.”

Speaker # 6 Laura Davis, president of Texas Parents United 

“I’m deeply concerned about the process that was followed to create and approve these bonds, in particular the long range planning committee and how decisions were made. This committee was made up of school board members and administrators and no community involvement. Why wasn’t the community enlisted in the decision process? 

Speaker #7

“We are not against our beloved LISD district. We don’t feel like repurposing an elementary school though is the best fit for our beloved LISD district. If PASA data is incorrect, then will we repurpose these buildings back into schools if so, great for construction companies but not good for communities or kids.” 

Speaker #8

“No one is asking to keep a school open with 50% utilization, we are saying that 50% is wrong. I don’t question the integrity of the PASA report, I get why they report the way they do for the general masses, but that’s not working for all parts of the district.” 

Speaker #11 

“If utilization is the only measure being used to close one of our elementary campuses, it’s only fair to expect the modified use will have greater or equal utilization. It would be nice to have rigorous analysis. Please take a pause. This kind of decision takes careful deliberation and extensive community involvement.”

March 6 meeting

LISD did start involving the community more and it pivoted its ideas on repurposing especially since the March 6 forum at Vandegrift where hundreds of concerned residents packed the cafeteria. Many LISD parents voiced their concerns, asked questions and shared comments for two hours. Most parents shared comments about the importance of keeping their schools open and not closing any in the southern part of the district.   

After both public meetings and many discussions, LISD is now shifting its repurposing approach to portions of the Steiner schools rather than closing an entire building. 

“If, however, a particular school’s community decides that it no longer makes sense for us to keep the school open, there is still the possibility of closing a school and repurposing the entire facility,” Gearing shared.


Since the defeat of two propositions in a November 2021 bond election, Leander ISD leaders have made concerted efforts to address the disparity in enrollment: a declining enrollment in some areas of the district and rapid enrollment growth in others, due in large part to the consistent construction of new homes. With uneven growth projected to continue, the district has been looking at ways to best use existing district facilities.

“We are unified in our goal to make use of our facilities in ways that serve students and families that reflect our hopes and dreams for #1LISD,” Board President Trish Bode said. “A part of our Core Beliefs is fostering meaningful, collaborative relationships with our community, and we are excited to move forward in a way that respects and builds on the vibrant school communities we have in LISD.”


If the bond passes, some projects that are unrelated to repurposing would start immediately this summer. The district would also be able to continue conversations with the community about the best way to implement the repurposing projects, while staying in the bounds of the bond order.

If the propositions fail, Leander ISD committed to continuing the conversation with the community. The district and the community would consider alternative options, including the possibility of:

  • Increased utilization of portable buildings
  • Implementing attendance rezoning district wide, with a specific focus at the elementary level
  • Reducing money available for day-to-day operational expenses due to funding projects through the Maintenance & Operations side of the tax rate.
  • Utilizing fund balance, which is typically reserved for emergencies.
  • Proposing future bond elections
  • Extending renovation and replacement cycles for buildings and equipment
  • Potentially closing underutilized schools, but without the money to repurpose them.

In an effort to continue the conversations, the district hosted a community forum on April 12 at Vandegrift High School. The district is also offering dedicated time to specifically address repurposing during its Bond Town Hall meeting at Cedar Park High School on April 17 at 6 p.m.

This article uses information from an April 6 posting on the Leander ISD website.