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Frustrations grow over proposed rezoning draft map

Frustrations boiled over Thursday as a handful of Hays CISD stakeholders opposed a proposed high school rezoning draft map they believe could negatively impact Lehman High.

Those comments were forwarded to the district’s high school rezoning committee during a second scheduled public forum held at Lehman High. Discussion centered on Draft Map 5, which is the latest proposed map crafted by the 35-person committee.

Per district policy, the committee follows six criterions when crafting rezoning maps, including a focus on neighborhood schools, as well as preventing, reducing and eliminating overcrowding.

But concerns from the majority of speakers Thursday ranged from school population problems to socioeconomic balance issues associated with Draft Map 5.

According to district projections, Lehman High would surpass its building capacity by the year 2020. Hays High would not surpass its building capacity until 2028, while Johnson High wouldn’t go beyond capacity until 2023. All Hays CISD high schools have a building capacity of 2,250 students.

A majority of residents also were concerned about the high percentage of economically disadvantaged students at Lehman High under Draft Map 5. According to district data, 68 percent of Lehman High’s student population in 2019 would be economically disadvantaged (ED), if Draft Map 5 were approved. Lehman’s current ED percentage is at 64 percent.

Hays and Johnson High would have an ED percentage below 45 percent.

Callie Raymond, a Hometown Kyle resident and Hays CISD parent, opposed Draft Map 5, believing that increasing the ED percentage at Lehman High would decrease parent and student involvement in extracurricular activates. She felt the issue could make it difficult to find “highly qualified administration and teachers.”

Raymond advocated for Draft Map 4, which called for each high school to pull students from middle schools on both sides of Interstate 35.

JD Sanford, a Buda resident and former educator, was disappointed in Draft Map 5 and believed it doesn’t ensure the district has the fairest schools possible. Sanford worried raising the ED percentage at Lehman could be a hindrance. He cited research that shows schools with high economically disadvantaged populations having reduced academic achievement.

“The current proposed map makes a hard problem worse,” Sanford said.

Sanford said splitting middle school feeder patterns could be inevitable with more campuses on the horizon. He also believed the district’s proposed concept of a socioeconomic diversity choice program could also hurt Lehman High.

Maria Mattis believed Draft Map 5 pulls the district away from its own mission statement and beliefs. Mattis also felt the proposed map creates a higher hurdle for Lehman High to compete.

“We are already a district divided. We say we’re not, but we are, even if it’s just public opinion and nothing else,” Mattis said. “But now it feels like the administration at the district level is not only accepting that but endorsing it with the current map we have.”

Blanco Vista resident Kelly Talovera, who was in favor of Draft Map 5, said while ED numbers are “alarming,” she believed it’s an issue the committee is not charged with addressing. While the committee discusses socioeconomics during their meetings, it’s not one of the six main criterion used to craft the maps.

“That’s not this committee and that’s not what this committee’s supposed to do,” Talovera said.

Talovera pushed for the district to create more programs for success, such as intervention teams and transfer opportunities, which might not improve the ED disparity, but would give faculty and staff more resources to “change the outcomes.” She also cited neighboring school districts using proximity as a factor in redrawing attendance boundaries.

However, former Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson disagreed “very strongly” with Draft Map 5, citing her concerns that socioeconomics and ethnicity are not primary factors in the committee’s decision making process.

While Johnson believed the neighborhood school concept is important, she also advocated for a map that offers diversity and fairness.

“It’s important to create neighborhood schools, but the top priority is educational outcomes for all students, it’s not just making sure everyone in the same subdivision goes to the same school,” Johnson said.

The committee now plans to go back to the drawing board following Thursday’s comments, said Sandra Bryant, secretary for the rezoning commmittee.

Bryant said she wasn’t surprised by the tone of discussion Thursday and felt the high population and ED numbers at Lehman would be talking point.

While the committee has tried to bring numbers down, Bryant said the area around Lehman High has a dense population, which creates issues trying to craft maps. But Bryant said several committee members have asked why socioeconomics are not part of the map-making process.

Bryant hopes to now hear from district administrators regarding the maps, a voice she said the committee “hasn’t heard from” much, if at all. She hopes to obtain feedback from officials in transportation, extracurricular activities and information systems.

“We’re trying to do the best we can with what we have,” Bryant said.

Hays CISD’s rezoning committee plans to meet Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Hays Performing Arts Center.

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