To split or not to split middle school student populations as they feed into Hays CISD high schools was one of a handful of talking points tackled by a 35-person rezoning committee, which met for the first time Thursday.
The meeting, held at the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center, is one of the first steps the district is taking toward redrawing attendance zones in preparation for the August 2019 opening of Johnson High, located along RM 967 near Carpenter Hill Elementary.
Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said the district plans to bring a rezoning recommendation from the committee to school board trustees for a possible vote by December, at the latest. Redrawing of attendance zones is the first of several processes leading up to Johnson High’s opening, which includes the hiring of personnel, as well as budgeting.
During the course of the rezoning process, Savoy said the committee will be asked to follow policy for maps, which call for maintaining the neighborhood school concept, while also preventing overcrowding and allowing for future growth.
Maps also should follow decision principles that include a common feeder pattern, as well as attempt to assign entire neighborhoods to the same school, while also considering student proximity to campuses. The district starts with two draft maps, with the committee possibly crafting more as they move forward.
Savoy said the district envisions the completed rezoning map lasting approximately ten or so years, which is also when the district envisions opening a fifth high school; high schools now include Hays, Lehman, Live Oak and Johnson high schools.
Hays CISD projections call for 7,365 high school students by 2028-29. However, Savoy said the ten-year timeframe is “loose” and is subject to change based on economic conditions and changes in growth. While one projection showed student populations exceeding capacity at all high schools in a decade, Savoy said they wouldn’t be “so over capacity” that it calls for getting another high school online until then.
“If it lasts ten years, and it could, that’s ten years where we don’t have to do this (rezoning) again, because we want to do this as little as possible,” Savoy said.
Once the two starter maps were unveiled, members of the committee began to pour over topics ranging from demographics and transportation issues to socioeconomic concerns.
One prevailing theme was whether or not to split middle school populations. One of the first draft maps calls for splitting Chapa Middle School into the Hays and Lehman attendance zones.
The issue hit home for committee members Melissa Cerna and Libby Gimpel, who both had children impacted during a previous rezoning process. However, Cerna said while the rezoning was tough initially on her child, she ultimately made friends at her new middle school and adapted to her new surroundings. Gimpel said when her son was rezoned into the Barton Middle School attendance zone, he was reunited with friends from his elementary school days.
“Kids are resilient, they bounce back and they’re fine,” Cerna said.
Committee member Jennifer Price said one challenge is going against an in-place culture in the district where elementary schools feed into certain middle schools, which then go to a specific high school.
“You get into that spirit and you go to those games, you get more ingrained into that feeder pattern,” Price said. “When all of a sudden that changes, that can be hard.”
Price, along with Cerna and Gimpel, all believed the first two draft maps are a good starting point.
Dahlstrom MS and McCormick MS to Johnson HS
Barton MS and part of Chapa MS to Hays HS
Simon MS, Wallace MS and part of Chapa MS to Lehman HS
Dahlstrom MS and McCormick MS to Johnson HS
Wallace MS and Barton MS to Hays HS
Simon MS and Chapa MS to Lehman HS
Committee member Charissa McBee Crossland said she supported splitting a middle school population, so long as the district doesn’t take “a little sliver” of students. Crossland idealized a 70-30 or even 60-40 split could be manageable, adding it’s “almost impossible to not split a school.”
Esmeralda Mishou, also a committee member, as concerned about how the maps cut the Green Pastures neighborhood in Buda, where she lives. Mishou also believes more could be done to ensure Lehman does not have the highest rate of economically disadvantaged students among all four high school campuses.
According to district population projections for both draft maps, 65 percent or more of Lehman’s student population would be economically disadvantaged.
Both Mishou and Crossland favored Draft 1 with its “layered cake” approach, but worried how it could impact Lehman High down the road. Per district projections, Lehman High would reach overcapacity by the 2020 school year under Draft 1. Both also were concerned about students in the northeastern part of the county and how they could face a lengthy commute, if they are zoned to Johnson High.
Committee member Richard Cronshey said there is not much difference between the first two plans when it comes to economic diveristy.
“That’s glaring to me as an educator,” Cronshey said. “There’s bound to be a Plan C that can level that out, if you want diversity.”