LISD discusses details in rezoning proposals

Dozens of parents, almost none of whom speak English, attend a meeting at Hedrick Elementary detailing how the school's population will be rezoned Oct. 20. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

Words like “boundaries” and “continuity of services” echo off cafeteria walls, squat lunch tables and low elementary school ceilings as Lewisville ISD begins to educate parents on the proposed rezoning plans to address next year’s closures of Hedrick and College Street elementary schools.

In a series of meetings that started Oct. 20 and will extend into the coming weeks, chief schools officer Joseph Coburn presented and will continue to present proposed boundary adjustments directly to parents inside the seven affected elementary schools. Three meetings took place Oct. 20 at Hedrick, Lewisville and Central elementaries. Another was the following Monday night Oct. 22 at Central, and the next is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday Oct. 25 at College Street Elementary.

Both of these closures, as well as College Street’s replacement by an as-yet-unnamed elementary school being built on Mill Street, were approved in the 2017 bond package. Questions about rezoning, particularly surrounding how Hedrick Elementary students will be rezoned, stretch all the way back to before that election, but have gone mostly unanswered. The board did not discuss the rezoning proposals publicly until Sept. 24 of this year, and even then, there are several draft maps surrounding Hedrick’s rezoning that have not been made available to the public. The Lewisville Texan Journal is currently pursuing those maps.

With both closures imminent, the board is expected to vote on the proposed rezoning plans at its next regular meeting Nov. 12.

Of the Saturday meetings, the Hedrick one was broadly attended, but the Lewisville and Central meetings saw sparse attendance. The Monday night meeting at Central was more crowded. On Saturday, almost none of the attendees spoke English. Spanish translators were on-hand, as was a Chin translator at Hedrick.

At the Hedrick Elementary meeting, Coburn introduced the issue at hand. Under the proposal, Hedrick students would be split between Degan, Vickery and Parkway elementary schools, although some students may need to be sent elsewhere still in order to accommodate their language needs.

“Back in May of 2017, a little more than 62 percent of our voters in Lewisville ISD supported a bond package that included an opportunity to build a brand new middle school to serve the Hedrick community,” he said. “Part of the construction of the new middle school meant the retiring of Hedrick Elementary School and an opportunity to use nearby campuses to be able to be sure that we provide a great education and services to everybody at Hedrick Elementary and that they would come back to a brand new shiny middle school.”

Coburn said the proposed plan would send a little more than 100 Hedrick students to Degan, a little more than 125 to Parkway and between 250-300 to Vickery. He said nearby Garden Ridge and Forest Vista elementary schools were considered, but keeping feeder patterns pure — in other words, making sure that all students going to the same elementary schools were zoned to go to the same middle and high schools, such that the same group of students stays together through its entire education — was important to the board, and those schools are zoned for Flower Mound High School instead of Lewisville.

Hedrick Elementary offers several special services to its population that are unique across the school district, and the board and LISD administration has repeatedly emphasized throughout the process that those services will be implemented at whatever schools Hedrick students are rezoned to. Coburn said that process is already underway. In a follow-up email, he said the district is partnering with national non-profit Communities in Schools to make that happen.

The most common question among attendees is what would happen to current Hedrick students who, like the vast majority of the meeting’s attendees, do not speak English and would not be ready for an English-only classroom. Coburn said that bilingual education services would also follow the students that need them, but that may mean going to yet another different school, one that they will not be zoned for even under the current proposal. Coburn said the district would provide busses in these cases.

“We are prepared to make sure that those services continue for all of our students. We do not currently have that program at Degan Elementary School, so we are looking at some of the other very nearby schools that we have to make sure that we provide that service. We’re finalizing those numbers right now to make sure that we got those students in the very best possible place, and that information will be shared very shortly,” he said. “If it is in a zone that is different from the zone you live in, transportation will definitely be provided to that school if we have to ask you to go to a different school in another zone.”

Coburn said in his follow-up email that details on this plan, including how many students would need to be bussed and where they would be bussed to, will be provided at the Nov. 12 board meeting where a vote on the overall proposal is expected.

The Oct. 20 meetings at Lewisville and Central elementary schools were much more sparsely populated, though the Oct. 22 night meeting at Central was a much fuller crowd according to Facebook posts from board member Jenny Proznik.

Several students and parents attend a meeting at Central Elementary Oct. 22. (Photo courtesy board member Jenny Proznik)

At Lewisville Elementary, Coburn said the new school on Mill Street, which has not yet been named, would relieve capacity issues in Old Town. The new school will have a capacity of 400 more students than College Street Elementary, which it replaces. Capacity for College Street Elementary is just 280 students, as opposed to 915 at Central Elementary. At the Sept. 24 meeting where these maps were first discussed, Coburn said there are students who can literally throw a rock from their backyard and hit College Street, but are zoned for Central because the schools’ capacities are so disparate.

Lewisville Elementary also projects to exceed its capacity in the short-term future, which the zoning proposal should avoid. A triangle of apartment complexes bordered by Business 121 to the west, I-35E to the north and east and Southeast Parkway to the south is being rezoned from Lewisville to Central Elementary as part of the proposal.

Coburn addressed how grandfathering, or remaining at a school a student has been zoned away from, will work under the proposal. Students in the tract being rezoned for Central who are entering fourth or fifth grade next year, as well as any younger siblings, will be guaranteed the right to remain at Lewisville Elementary, but that the district will not provide transportation across Business-121. Other students may apply for a transfer to remain at Lewisville, but that transfer will not be guaranteed.

Meetings on the rezoning proposals, where the public may ask questions directly to Coburn and superintendent Kevin Rogers and at which LISD trustees will be present, will continue right up until the vote. A final meeting on the College Street/Central/Lewisville rezoning plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at College Street Elementary, and two more meetings on the Hedrick rezoning plan are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Vickery Elementary and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at Parkway Elementary.

The board is expected to vote on these zoning plans at its next regular meeting Nov. 12.