With Hays CISD projected to hit an enrollment of 20,000 students in the fall, the district has made preparations to accommodate the growth and minimize growing pains during this watershed year.
According to district data, student enrollment has grown by about 20 percent in just five years. Hays CISD is the third-fastest growing district in Region 13, which is made up of 60 Central Texas school districts and includes Austin ISD and Pflugerville ISD.
Thanks to demographers, the district has “seen this coming for years” and has made necessary changes needed to accomodate the 20,000 students they expect in the fall, HCISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said. The biggest impact 20,000 students will have will be on facilities and infrastructure, he said.
“You don’t wait for 20,000, you have to plan in advance and you have to stay ahead of it. That’s what we did,” Savoy said.
The passage of bonds in 2014 and 2017 also allowed the district funds to grow, he said, But Hays CISD made additional changes to relieve growing pains, he said. Methods Hays CISD has implemented to accommodate the growth include hiring more staff and staying competitive as an employer by maintaining and increasing salaries. With 60 percent of students riding buses, more drivers and buses were needed, he said.
The opening of a Kyle IDEA Public School, a charter school system, is expected to relieve some of the growth, Savoy said. While not ideal, constructing portables on school grounds to hold classes in also gives the district “breathing room,” he said.
Districts are limited in how large bonds they can present to voters; called the bonding capacity, it is a determined maximum amount of debt school districts can propose, based on tax rates.
“(Portables) are necessary just because it gives you a buffer in that bonding capacity,” Savoy said. “When you’re in a fast-growing district, you need to build schools faster than bonding capacity can grow. People are reluctant to build new schools if the current schools aren’t full.”
With new schools in the works, including a third traditional high school, Savoy said the district will continue to rely on the community to help the district grow.
“At the end of the day, it is the community’s decision on which schools to build and when to build them,” Savoy said. “You have to find that balance between what you need and utilizing every source you have available.”