The Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees met for a workshop session last night Sept. 24 to discuss possible rezoning schemes to make up for the closure of Hedrick Elementary School, which is in its final year. The changes could take effect as soon as next year.
Hedrick Elementary’s closure was part of the 2017 bond package — the elementary school shares a plot of land with Hedrick Middle School, and the package that was ultimately voted on included expanding the middle school at the elementary’s expense. The package also added 10 classrooms to Vickery Elementary School a block west in Flower Mound.
How Hedrick’s closure would affect zoning was a central question about the $737 million bond package, and LISD didn’t have an answer. Superintendent Kevin Rogers said at the time there were too many variables to give parents a good idea of how the zoning would shake out, and said it would be irresponsible to speculate. Despite not knowing where the Hedrick Elementary students would go, the board repeatedly assured parents that the school’s unique assistance and after-school programs would go with them.
With the school closing next year, it is urgent the board reaches a decision on zoning changes, and last night was the first public discussion on the topic. The board was presented with several maps that laid out possible options for how students who are currently sent to Hedrick Elementary could be zoned, as well as on other rezoning concerns such as the incoming elementary school on Mill Street, the future of Bridlewood and Flower Mound elementary schools and the future of zoning in the fast-growing southwestern part of the school district.
Chief schools officer Joseph Coburn guided the board through the various draft maps. At the end of the meeting, Coburn hastily collected the maps from board members and said they would not be made available to the public at this time.
Despite this meeting being open to the public by Texas law and despite rezoning being of extreme interest to the public, almost all discussion was in reference to the maps, which were not put on PowerPoint slides and were not visible to attending members of the public. The Lewisville Texan Journal has sent a public information request to the school district to retrieve the maps, as well as information on several other options Rogers said were eliminated without any public discussion at all.
What is clear from public discussion is that the board is very concerned with keeping its promise that services unique to Hedrick Elementary will be spread to any school that receives its currently zoned students. Multiple board members asked about it specifically. Deputy superintendent Lori Rapp said changes in Title 1 funding could help in making sure those programs stay with those students — in Texas, Title 1 schools are schools with a student base that comes from at least 40 percent low-income households. The majority of Hedrick Elementary students come from low-income households, and schools that receive a large infusion of those students could potentially see increased funding through this program.
“The programs wouldn’t change. We made a commitment with the bond that, with the retiring of Hedrick Elementary School that program access would not change for any of those students,” Coburn said. “Wherever our existing Hedrick Elementary School boundary students land, they will land with those programs and those supports in place.”
The board was also concerned with keeping feeder patterns pure. The trustees want to make sure that all the middle schools that feed into a high school feed only into that high school and that all elementary schools that feed into those middle schools are feeding only into those middle schools. Students who will go to Lewisville High School get their cluster of elementary schools and students who will go to Marcus have their cluster of elementary schools and so on.
“There is great comfort in knowing that you’re going to be a future Farmer, a future Hawk, a future Marauder, a future Jag,” board member Jenny Proznik said.
Rogers said district staff had discussed as many as 15 different zoning options, but the board was presented with three. He asked the board to narrow that down further to two to present to the public. He cited board concerns about the recent academic calendar vote in which four options were presented to the public, but those four consisted of two pairs of very similar options.
Board president Angie Cox said she’d like to see all three options presented, and stressed that communicating with parents extensively is going to be paramount in making this decision. Many board members mentioned having at least one Saturday meeting for public input as a necessary option.
“I’m not sure why we can’t just show all three. I mean, we’ve been presented all three, I don’t know why our public can’t see it too,” she said. “Communication is going to be key in this, and I would expect that we would present that at the highest level to say that we left no door unopened to say we didn’t communicate in some form or fashion to these parents.”
Board member Katherine Sells said that no matter what was presented to the public, the board would need to keep track of where each vote was coming from since, each option would affect individual neighborhoods very differently.
Ultimately, Rogers said the district would move forward with presenting two of the three options.
Discussion then turned to how to balance the enrollments of Lewisville, Central and the as-yet-unnamed Mill Street elementary schools. The board was presented with one zoning option to do this, and discussed how they would handle grandfathering options for students who wanted to stay in their current schools. Rogers said the board needed to come to some sort of decision on these within the next few months, but there was more time to discuss Bridlewood and Flower Mound elementaries and the southwest part of the school district.
The board will have formal discussion items on the rezoning options over October, with a vote targeted for November. Board members insisted on several meetings for public input, discussing as many as four individual meetings.
“What is important to me is we have at least four separate public hearings, one for each one, because these are four separate unique communities, and I think it would be disingenuous for us not to focus just on one community and one boundary at a time,” Proznik said.
Board member Kronda Thimesch discussed pushing the vote, or at least the vote on the less urgent items, as late as December. Rogers said it would be better to push the items to next year than to December, and that he didn’t want to leave parents uncertain about where their children would go to school.
“I think, if I’m a parent, I want to know sooner than later what’s going to happen,” he said.
At the start of the meeting, the board approved an emergency item to fund repairs on the Arbor Creek Middle School gymnasium floor, which was damaged by a burst water pipe. The total cost of the repairs will be $91,650, but the district will only be on the hook for its $50,000 insurance deductible. Coburn said they expect the floor will be ready in time for basketball season.
UPDATE: Lewisville ISD spokesperson Amanda Brim said the maps would be available to the public within 7-10 days.