Editor’s Note: The following article is from our Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D., and Board President Trish Bode regarding an upcoming presentation at our Dec. 16, 2021, Board of Trustees meeting. To view the presentation materials, please visit our Board Book website or click here to read the full report.
Our students and community deserve world-class schools, which drives decision-making in Leander ISD. However, we balance a responsibility to our community to use resources wisely. When we can cultivate each student individually to be the very best version of themselves while meeting the community’s vision for our public schools, we gain trust, create advocacy for our schools and classrooms, and make hopes and dreams a reality.
We have been listening and learning since the November election. And we know we have more listening and learning to do as we work to rebuild and strengthen our connections with LISD families. We need to get in person and see each other as people, parents, and neighbors. Knowing we have work to do, some next steps have become clearer after voters did not support propositions A and C of our November 2, 2021, bond election.
When we spoke to our Board of Trustees in July prior to calling the election, the subject of attendance zoning and school utilization came to the forefront. As you can see in our demographer’s reports each fall, we have uneven growth as the northern parts of Leander ISD add new housing while the central and southern parts of our district slowly regenerate. We asked our Board to hold off discussions until we understood the landscape after the bond election. We also told voters in our bond presentations, website, and video that attendance zoning could be an option if the proposition with new school construction did not pass.
In our ThoughtExchange and focus group surveys after the election, the subject of attendance zoning is also rising to the forefront as an option to consider or at least present moving forward with nine schools projected to exceed 120% of their functional capacity in the coming years.
On December 16, our district’s facilities team will conduct a zoning exercise to show what an attendance zoning scenario could look like if we prioritize balancing enrollments and maximizing building utilization. To make this work, about 10,000 students could be impacted. We know our families love their neighborhood schools, so in anticipation of this rezoning exercise, we want to inform our community that we have not formally started an attendance zoning process and this discussion is intended to inform decision-making regarding future elections and facilities master planning. When the district starts a zoning process, we first launch an attendance zoning-specific survey and listening initiative before an official project charter comes to the Board, setting the parameters for attendance zoning modifications. While that still may happen, we will not be making any additional changes to the 2022-23 school year attendance zones, beyond the changes approved in Spring 2021 with the opening of Elementary School #29.
As a leadership team, we are concerned about the disruption moving 10,000+ students from their home campus might cause our families. We take the results of a failed election very seriously, but we also do not believe our voter feedback is calling for a complete reversal of our commitment to strong neighborhood schools. While rezoning students to utilize existing classroom space remains an option, we are hopeful we still have opportunities available that avoid widespread disruptions that could negatively impact student opportunities and experiences. Growth is coming, and we must manage it.
Help Inform Our Next Steps
While we continue our work to listen, plan, and make decisions on behalf of our students, teachers, staff, families, and community, we want you to remain engaged by following our Board meetings (agendas, videos, meeting summaries), reviewing the attendance zoning exercise presentation, participating in our surveys open through Jan. 3 (ThoughtExchange, Let’s Talk), and coming to our events to speak with us directly (Dec. 16 Board of Trustees meeting or Jan. 6 Board Cafe event).
We hope to see you or hear you in the coming weeks as we continue this important work, coming together as #1LISD, to support our students.
Note: The Citizen Comment process changed earlier this year. You must sign-up electronically between 12 p.m. the day prior to the meeting (Wednesday, December 15, 2021) and 12 p.m. the day of the meeting (Thursday, December 16, 2021).