Nearly 100 people filled the Atascocita Springs Elementary (ASE) cafeteria to make their voices heard at the Nov. 29 Humble ISD Community Input Meeting regarding elementary attendance zone changes. District representatives Roger Brown, Carol Atwood and Deborah Yoakum presented a lone option for rezoning to establish an attendance zone for a new elementary school campus in The Groves subdivision.
The new school is designated as ES #28 and has not yet been named but is expected to open August 2017. Dr. Brian Peters, former Summerwood Elementary principal, has been appointed principal of the new school.
Students currently zoned to Eagle Springs Elementary (ESE) and ASE would be rezoned out of their neighborhoods and into The Groves school. The plan would require 450 ASE students to be rezoned to the new school. Another meeting was held December 1 at Eagle Springs Elementary to discuss the 150 affected students.
The majority of parents who spoke at the meeting were upset regarding the way the district has thus far handled the situation.
“The last time rezoning affected ASE, we were given a lot more time and were presented with five or six options to discuss as a community,” said parent Erica Bailey.
Parent Susan Stillman echoed the sentiment, asking Brown, “What was the logic behind putting together only one option versus three or four that we could discuss as a community?”
The district held the meetings to solicit public comment regarding not only the proposed attendance zone changes, but also the process used by the school attendance area committee to develop the plan. Parents and concerned residents can provide online comments to humbleisd.net between Nov. 29 and Dec. 8. Brown explained that the rezoning plan would most certainly be on the Dec. 13 school board meeting agenda, but could not say whether the board would vote on the plan at that time. The school board must approve the new attendance zone this school year to take effect in 2017-2018. Brown urged parents to provide all comments online.
“Perhaps when the board sees all the input, they might not vote on Dec. 13,” said Brown. Vickie Woo, an active PTA parent, stated that she had done her own plan with alternate numbers, and that it not only met the population criteria but also did a better job of keeping kids in their current neighborhoods. Brown invited her to send it to him for consideration.
Many parents expressed frustration at the plan being “rammed down our throats," as one dad stated, and continued to express frustration at the very short time frame given for review and comment on the proposed plan. Brown stated that the district has been working on the plan for a year. One parent called the plan a “travesty,” and recommended firing Brown and ousting the current four board members who are up for re-election in May 2017.
Several parents expressed frustration that the plan appears to only account for student numbers and doesn’t consider other factors.
“We would like to have also seen bus routes, walking routes, safety and overall infrastructure considerations in the presentation," said one parent. Some children will have to travel further than they do now, and the parents cited crossing busy intersections and lack of sidewalks as two concerns. Parents must now consider busing their kids instead of car pickup due to the increased distance.
The district cites overpopulation as the main motivation for the proposed plan. Despite a maximum capacity of 950 students, ASE currently has 1,194 enrolled and 1,225 projected for next school year. . ESE's max capacity is 750, but there are currently 857 students with 968 projected for next year. The district’s proposed plan shows ASE at 900/950 capacity, ESE at 700/750 capacity, and the new school in The Groves at 900/950 students. Brown justified the presentation of only one plan, saying that “we looked at a number of choices, but this plan ultimately provides a better balance, preventing both overpopulation and under-utilization.”
Parents expressed frustration that their community was being split in half, and that half of the kids are now zoned to the new school.
“This is why we bought our home here — so that our kids could go to school in our community. It took us three months to find a home so my kids could go to school nearby. Now you’re taking that away!” said one passionate mom. Woo echoed the sentiment, saying that the rezoning affects 13 of 21 PTA board members.
“There were few amenities at ASE when it opened. PTA has raised money for playground equipment, a shade structure and a walking track. It’s frustrating to work that hard to provide those things for our children, only to then be asked to leave to go to another school,” said Woo.
One man in the audience stated that the district has always underestimated growth in their demographic planning, resulting in iterative rezoning efforts.
“This is a short-term fix to a long-term issue. We were over capacity within the first two years at ASE. Why do we think this won’t continue happening? It’s the same short-sighted district planning strategy as before,” said the man. Tory Western agreed, stating that “the 2015-2025 projected growth for The Groves and Lakeshore is 2,500 kids. So using the district’s current plans, we will probably be asked to move again and again,” said Western.
Several parents expressed concern about the “domino effect,” a term used by Christie Rugelstad to explain that neighborhoods are not only being affected by the elementary rezoning, but likely also by the rezoning for the new middle and high schools.
“This is only the beginning. They’re rezoning for elementary now, but my kids will probably also be rezoned for the new middle school and the new high school. As it stands now, I will most likely drive past AHS to take my kids to the new high school,” said Susan Stillman.
Despite the overwhelming opposition to the plan, there were a few parents who were in favor of it.
One mom asked, “We built ASE. Why can’t we as a community build another great school in The Groves?” Parents representing Clayton’s Corner subdivision said they would be happy to attend the new school. Their kids currently take the bus to ASE, so it would not be much different to take the bus to the new school. Erica Bailey explained that her family has moved around a lot, so the change isn’t controversial for them.
“We have lived overseas and moved here from Virginia, so my kids are used to moving around. In my view, this gives them exposure to real life,” said Bailey.
Her friend and neighbor Amy Esklund said, “I disagree with Erica on this. I am concerned about the rezoning. But we live on the same street and are friends, so we can agree to have different points of view.”
The new elementary is the first of several new campuses that are needed due to Humble ISD's growing enrollment. Humble ISD is among the 10 fastest growing school districts in Texas.
Current 2016-2017 attendance zones can be found at humbleisd.net/attendancezones. District demographics project Humble ISD will be serving 52,000 students by 2025, an increase of 11,500 more students than today. To accommodate the increase, six new schools are needed: one new high school, two new middle schools, and three new elementary schools. More detail on demographic studies can be found at humbleisd.net.
After the meetings, the district has changed its stance. In a statement clarifying that all community input is taken seriously, the district stated that it has chosen to slow down its boundary approval process in order to thoroughly factor in all input received. Therefore, the rezoning agenda item will not be discussed at the Dec. 13 school board meeting. Instead, the committee will take more time to look at options submitted by the community, and a proposal will be presented after winter break. The district will look at options such as allowing current ASE and ESE students to remain at their schools through fifth grade. The boundaries must be decided no later than the February school board meeting to meet the schedule for opening the new school in August.