DSISD still seeks input on one or more high schools

Questions still linger on what direction Dripping Springs ISD stakeholders plan to take for its secondary campuses.

Armed with a new survey by Population and Survey Analysts (PASA), DSISD officials turned to parents and local leaders to chime on their vision for the district.

PASA’s study, which provided insight on how the city is anticipated to grow in the next few decades, concluded that the district needs to take action on the future of its high school campus, whether that is in the form of one mega-high school or multiple campuses.

At a May 23 long-range facilities planning committee meeting, Superintendent Bruce Gearing urged parents to use the summer as a brainstorming period to think about the district’s future. 

“Think about how this district has been constantly attracting new populations of several different age segments,” said Pat Guseman, CEO of PASA. “This is really a district that’s pulling newcomers to the district.”

The team at PASA are projecting an increase in housing stock and migration to the Dripping Springs area, which will inevitably increase the school district’s population.

Dripping Springs ISD ranks 9th in growth in Texas school districts with 5000-plus students; the district has grown by 6.6% in the last two fiscal year cycles. That equates to an increase in 423 students during that time.

Future growth projections, based on conservative analysis, shows that growth trend will continue. 

In four years, the population is anticipated to be around 9,400 students. By 2028, projected enrollment will hit around 13,000 students.

“You can see that the percent growth does vary by year, and that’s primarily based on the projected housing,” Guseman said.

Guseman said the data compiled comes on the heels of discussion with developers and home builders who anticipate increasing the housing stock in Dripping Springs. At complete build-out of the housing stock in the city, PASA estimated around 24,000 students; the district could have roughly 7,300 high school students at that point.

 

Guseman said Dripping Springs is at around 50% build-out, but could not give an exact year for when that number could reach 100%.

“We work for districts that are about 84% build-out, and they’re easy because you can estimate and watch the path of growth … but we really wouldn’t know (now).”

Parents in the audience toyed with the possibility of following the model of Allen High, located in the Dallas area. Allen High, one of the largest high school campuses in Texas, has more than 6,000 students. 

However, Allen ISD’s vision for a single high school took years of planning and preparation. Gearing said Allen ISD has done a wonderful job with that facility.

Additionally, the district has a separate freshman campus, an attractive prospect that has led to a smoother transition between high school and middle school.

However, the model does pose some challenges, specifically for athletics. DSISD Athletic Director and head football coach Galen Zimmerman said a single high school with a large student population could pose problems when it comes to playing time for athletes. 

While extracurricular activities such as band could benefit from a larger population, it could be more difficult for students to see playing time in sports such as basketball or baseball, which have a limited number of starting spots on the court or field.

Looking to the future, Gearing said the district must plan for its facilities to be flexible and conducive to a changing school environment.

Gearing said the meetings are the start of a process to receive feedback from Dripping Springs residents on the future of its high school and other expanding campuses. But in order to plan accordingly, a decision will need to be made.

“We’ve got to build flexible enough facilities that we can manage what we don’t know, and that’s part of what we’re trying to do…,” Gearing said. “Putting things like removable walls helps us to keep two separate classrooms if that’s what we want, but also have one bigger space if that’s what we need.”

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