Hays CISD proposes fifth zoning option

Controversy is growing over a fifth proposed high school attendance boundary map due to worries it could have negative school population and socioeconomic impacts.

Draft Map 5, crafted by the 35-person Hays CISD rezoning committee, was unveiled to the public Oct. 17 and came as a result of feedback from the district’s first rezoning public forum. The three initial options viewed during the forum, Draft Maps 2, 3 and 4, were retired by the committee.

One element of Draft Map 5 is maintaining the neighborhood schools concept, which is one of the provisions the committee is charged with adhering to during rezoning. The committee opted to shift the Post Oak, Four Seasons Farm, Creekside and Brookside subdivisions from Wallace Middle School to Simon Middle School. The move was done due to proximity to Lehman High, which students in the subdivision already attend.

Draft Map 5 also maintains vertical alignment in secondary school feeder patterns, which is something committee members preferred, said committee member Brad Alexander. 

“We tried to shorten commute times and make neighborhood schools when we could, and we haven’t been always able to do that,” Alexander said.

A second element called for a conceptual socioeconomic diversity choice transfer program. That idea, which has not been approved, would allow students to transfer high schools if they improved socioeconomic diversity at their next campus.

Savoy said the move was done after committee members were unable to balance socioeconomic diversity among the three high schools geographically. Economic diversity is not one of the main points of focus for the committee, but it has been discussed in recent meetings.

But to move forward, the committee would not only have to approve the recommendation as a caveat to a draft map, but also call for the Board of Trustees to change existing policies. High school transfers are currently not allowed in Hays CISD unless there is an instance of bullying or assault.

Savoy said the district would have to adhere to federal and state laws, along with rules set by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which oversees athletic and academic competition in Texas, if the concept moves forward.

Alexander said the conceptual idea could be akin to the district’s existing dual language program. Alexander added he believes there are enough students who might be zoned to Hays High who want to stay at Lehman High.

Savoy said the district is eyeing the possibility of allowing high school juniors and seniors who are affected by rezoning to remain at their current campus.

“What we’re wanting is for what’s best for the majority of the kids,” Alexander said. “We’re not going to make everyone happy and we’re not going to make every different situation right for everyone.

One potential pitfall of Draft Map 5, however, is possible overcrowding at Lehman High.

Under the new proposed draft map, Lehman High could surpass its building capacity of 2,250 students by 2020. While Savoy said functional capacity at both existing high schools could go above 2,250, the committee would have to address that issue in the future.

Desdanie O’Neal, a Hays CISD parent, said Draft Map 5 has the “appearance of borderline racial classism.”

O’Neal believes fewer students at Hays High, along with a higher economic disadvantage percentage at Lehman, doesn’t pose a fair balance with the proposed map.

If no changes were made to Draft Map 5, Hays High would not surpass its building capacity until 2028, according to forecasts. Lehman High would have 1,459, or 68 percent, of the district’s 3,068 economically disadvantaged students in 2019, while Johnson and Hays High would have less than 900. 

O’Neal also believes factors such as socioeconomics and ethnicity should hold more weight than travel times.

“I am having a hard time figuring out why certain things are being overlooked that are clearly stated (in the Texas Education Codes), and should be addressed during any assessment.”

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