Possible Overcrowding Solutions

On January 4th, residents in the White Rock Elementary attendance zone received a digital survey (one per household).The survey asks some demographic questions and then provides you with 4 options for a solution:

1. Add on to White Rock Elementary and create capacity to accommodate current and future students at the current site.

2. Create a new K-6 school within the current White Rock Elementary attendance zone. (This option will require dividing the WRE attendance zone into two separate elementary school zones.)

3. Rebalance the current attendance zones and spread the additional students out across other local schools. (This option will require rezoning the WRE school attendance zone)

4. None of the Above (with an option to write in your own solution)

We recommend not selecting number 2 because a new campus, regardless of location but especially the White Rock Trail location, would face community and/or legal opposition. Additionally, it would require dividing WRE into two new boundaries which has proven to be contentious. This is not a quick solution when we have an urgent problem.

We are similarly concerned about option number 3 because there is quite a bit of uncertainty on how the attendance zone would be split, and what is meant by “spread students across local schools”, since there is overcrowding across Lake Highlands.

It is our recommendation that you vote “none of the above” unless you believe expanding White Rock Elementary is the best solution. If you think that, then by all means, please pick it. But if you think it is the 2nd best option, then “none of the above” is the correct answer. It is very important that you follow up the “none of the above” answer with a specific solution that you think is the absolute best.

There is 1 additional question at the end. It asks:

If RISD chooses to build a new k-6 school within the current attendance zone, please list your criteria in order of importance for choosing a site for the new elementary school.

It is recommended that on this section your 1st answer is “No School at White Rock Trail”. This will avoid misinterpretation of support for WRT, which is a very contentious site.

If you think building a school in WRV is a good idea, then list those reasons after “no school at WRT”.

While we encourage you to vote independently, it is important that we are informed, thoughtful and strategic in our responses. We must come together as a neighborhood to get the best solution for our neighborhood. That is why both of our groups, We Need A School and We Have A Voice are coming together in this message asking you to complete the survey.

We Have A Voice has collected some of the most popular overcrowding solutions here, and listed pros and cons to each to help provide guidance for these survey responses.

Long Term Solutions

Solution #1: Build a 5th / 6th  grade school on the campus of Lake Highlands Junior High.

This solution would alleviate overcrowding in WRE immediately, change no boundaries, and facilitate necessary junior high school capacity expansion, as those schools are under capacity for 2021, by building a modern, cohesively planned facilities. This would change Lake Highlands Junior Higher feeder schools to a K-4, 5/6+7/8 (same campus, but separate facilities, with the 5/6 maintaining and elementary school instructional model, not a secondary school model like is typically used at the Jr. High and High School level), 9-12 model, one currently used in districts like Highland Park (#1 district in TX), Pearland (#42) and Wylie (#54).

Pros

  • Dr. Stone says that it worked well in her former district, Wylie ISD. She has mentioned liking this model. This was also the model recommended by the Lake Highlands Reflector Committee in April 2016.
  • RISD owns the land, so it could happen quickly, opening in 2019.
  • It addresses the entire feeder pattern (where other schools also face overcrowding) and broadly eliminates overcrowding and overflows.
  • Boundaries don’t change.
  • Allows better coordination of special needs support, enrichment activities in 5th and 6th grade (band, orchestra, etc.) and potentially earlier introduction of accelerated tracks.

Cons

  • Shifts the geographic transition from 6th grade to 4th grade, while adding a facility only transition in 6th grade, since both schools are at the same site.  While adding the facility only transition might be viewed as a con, moving the geographic transition to 4th may actually be viewed as a pro, as research previously presented by RISD indicates that earlier transitions, prior to adolescence, are preferred.
  • Results in 2 fewer years in a neighborhood school that kids can walk to.

Solution #2: Add on to White Rock Elementary.

This solution would involve additional construction to White Rock Elementary, 12-15 new classrooms, another gymnasium, additional “specials” classrooms, an expanded cafeteria, and other site modifications required to support these additions.

Pros

  • Avoids boundary redraws
  • Maintains K-6 model
  • Preliminary plans are already drawn, and, following this process, the expansion could potentially still open in 2018, easily in 2019.
  • Less expensive than building a new school.
  • This option would face the least opposition from the RISD board.

Cons

  • Larger, less personal school because each grade would still have a large number of sections.
  • Reduction in total green space, and significant reduction in green space per student.
  • School traffic in neighborhood increases proportionally
  • Doesn’t provide relief at JH level
  • Potential for large amounts of excess capacity in the future.  Schools like Lake Highlands Elementary and Stults Road Elementary currently have fewer than 50% of their students living inside their attendance zones due to excess capacity.

Solution #3: Convert Northlake and WRE into a single attendance zone with split grade configuration, i.e. K-3 at WRE and 4-6 at NLE

Pros

  • Keeps current WRE students from being overflowed to distant locations
  • Infuses NLE with WRE’s strong culture (PTA, Dad’s Club, Traffic Dads, etc.), strengthening area schools overall.

Cons

  • Extremely large cohorts (think 250-300 Kindergartners on one campus)
  • Would still require classroom construction and associated common area construction at both schools using existing growth predictions.
  • Could create extreme single family participation growth in the NLE attendance zone, making it non-viable again in a few short years.

Solution #99: Build three new well sited elementary schools throughout Lake Highlands and redraw all lines.

This solution would entail purchasing plots of land throughout Lake Highlands to build new elementary schools to handle growth and redrawing boundary lines to appropriately apportion attendance equally into new schools.

Pros

  • Maintains K-6 model for all schools in feeder pattern.

Cons

  • This option doesn’t provide specificity in how it will address WRE crowding, and could be interpreted many ways.  RISD could interpret this suggestion as validating their intent to build at WRT.  Unfortunately, due to RISD’s history of being manipulative and dishonest with survey results, we recommend that you avoid mentioning construction of a new school.
  • Requires purchase of significant amounts of land. To build schools on recommended lot size would mean purchasing multifamily or commercial property (some may view this as a pro).
  • Would result in new boundary lines.
  • Because of land purchase, has long lead time. If you do it right, the first school might not open for 4 years. Only way to do it faster is likely to do it poorly (think WRT)

Temporary Solutions

A good solution will take time.  Classrooms will need to be built somewhere.  Something has to be done in the meantime.  We think each response should include 1 temporary solution paired with the long term solutions.

Solution #T-1: Use Portable Classrooms to Temporarily Relieve Lake Highlands Crowding Across the Attendance Zone

Pros

  • Deploying portables at the point of need reduces overflow and busing of students.
  • Even where sufficient portables cannot be added support bringing home all overflowed students (like at WRE), reducing overflow system wide allows overflows to stay closer to home.
  • Being non-permanent, installing portables doesn’t create permanent structures that affect decisions on long term solutions.

Cons

  • Portable classrooms are considered a security issue by school districts and undesirable.
  • Some school districts have histories of installing portable classrooms as temporary solutions and then never implementing long term solutions.
  • Money spent on portable classrooms is a capital expense with no associated long term asset.

Solution #T-2: Lease Space to Temporarily Relieve Lake Highlands Crowding

Pros

  • Being non-permanent, leasing space doesn’t create permanent structures that affect decisions on long term solutions.
  • Possibly cheaper than portables if the right facility(s) can be found.
  • Potentially addresses security concerns associated with portables.

Cons

  • You are essentially opening an additional school and will have to fully staff the school.
  • Location of facility(s) will drive student transportation needs.
  • Not a viable option if the right facility cannot be located.
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