In The Zone
MISD to Propose New Attendance Zones
April 24, 2018
A mother rises to have her voice heard at the attendance zone community meeting. Fear of her children attending four different schools in four years troubles and drives her to speak out with each of the new rezoning proposals. The school board faces a dilemma: have overpopulated classrooms at Legacy and Lake Ridge, or move students multiple times to new schools.
Mansfield’s population continues to boom as new jobs and superior schooling draws families to the city. However, this population increase comes with issues. MISD has begun a new plan to compensate for over-capacity schools and future housing developments that involves rezoning attendance zones for all levels of education.
“I think the increased enrollment for Legacy is a good thing,” Ms. Carla Settle, parent of a freshman, said. “When you think about your class sizes, so, if you’re in a really large class, right, a boost in enrollment means you’re going to get more teachers, because teachers are assigned per subset of students. That’s a big deal for Legacy to grow.”
Mary Lillard Intermediate school and Danny Jones Middle School both face overpopulation, and Lake Ridge High School is projected to reach its maximum population in the 2018/19 school year. The recent bond approval provides funds for construction to begin on Brenda Norwood Elementary, Alma Martinez Intermediate and Charlene McKinzey Middle schools, all of which will be opened in 2020, and require new attendance zones. The assembling of an attendance zoning committee to oversee the rezoning proposal will be in the hands of Assistant Superintendent of Student Services and Support David Wright and Executive Director of Facilities and Operations Paul Cash. Whatever decision the committee comes to will be presented to the school board on April 24 and will come to fruition by the 2020 school year.
“Some people put out some thoughts that were legitimate,” Wright said. “So we went back to the drawing board.”
In the effort to alleviate the overcrowding, the attendance zoning committee has come up with three plans. The committee will structure the plans to keep all of the high schools as close to the 2,500 student population cap as possible. Each of these propositions impact zoning in the southern part of the district, around Heritage Parkway, Chamber Street and Bedford Street, that takes future developments, population projections, and specific goals into consideration. The committee seeks to identify areas served by campuses, alleviate overcrowded schools, account for barriers and future sites, and move the least amount of students the least amount of times.
The first plan of action involves alleviating the overcrowding issue at Lake Ridge by passing a large swath of zone to Legacy. If no plan goes into effect, Lake Ridge will be 500 students over capacity by 2021, and 1000 students over capacity by 2027/28. However, if plan one were to be accepted, projected attendance caps out at 2,700 for both schools, 200 students above capacity. Concerns surrounding this plan consist of Legacy taking on the whole burden, a large number of students temporarily filling the school and then a large attendance drop with the adding of a new high school. Supporters believe a boost in enrollment will benefit Legacy because it will create larger class sizes.
“I think that the changes in the attendance zones could completely change the environment of Legacy,” Ms. Mindi Cook, parent of a junior, said. “For about five years, Legacy High School will bear the burden of what all comes with the temporary students on our campus.”
The second proposed plan also trades zones between Lake Ridge and Legacy, although much fewer area transfers to Legacy. Through this plan, Legacy only barely reaches capacity during the 2025/26 school year, but Lake Ridge continues to boom in population, all the way up to about 2,900 by 2027/28. Although this plan has a smaller impact on Legacy, parents and committee members are concerned that the overcrowding problem at Lake Ridge will not be solved.
“[In] the original two proposals that they had, the only schools that would have been affected were Legacy and Lake Ridge,” Cook said. “We were concerned with overcrowding because it could put us in portable buildings.”
After a community meeting, the Attendance Zoning Committee redrew the proposed zones to form plan three. In this plan, some of the bloated Lake Ridge zones travel to Legacy, but some students in the downtown Mansfield area will find themselves in Mansfield High’s attendance zone. This plan prevents any serious overpopulation at all three schools, with all populations evening out to about 2,500, the current capacity for all MISD high schools. Although Mansfield High School had to be impacted for this plan to work, the lack of overpopulation keeps most parents happy. However, some residents believe the zones are biased based on economics.
“It feels like people from a Title I school area are not welcome at Legacy based on what people are saying,” Ms. Lynn White* said. “Well, they like plan three. Plan three sends the most impoverished section to Lake Ridge, not Legacy. We need to be more open and accepting of others.”
With the boost in attendance, Legacy will move from 5A to 6A. Questions and concerns regarding if the school can hold that many students have arisen. Cash eased some of these concerns by pointing out not all students who attend the high schools will be there at once. Students leave for Ben Barber, senior release, community service and other off-campus activities during the day.
“Absolutely something has to be done because there is no wiggle room [at Lake Ridge] and it’s just growing growing growing,” Donna Wright, parent of a sophomore, said. “I do like that they pulled in the other option of using a little bit of Mansfield, then everybody’s got some skin in the game, and no one can say it was about Mansfield High School.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy
Plan 3 for high schools was selected by the Zoning Committee and approved by the School Board.