Boundary changes to help relieve overcrowding at some of the elementary schools and creating a pure feeder path from middle schools to the high schools were discussed during a parent meeting Tuesday at Bonham Middle School.
The Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees will consider the proposed boundary changes at an April 26 meeting. If approved, the changes would take effect in fall of this year.
Another parent meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tonight at Ector Middle School, 809 W. Clements St., and another live streaming event will be Thursday, although a time has not yet been set.
About 40 people turned out to listen and ask questions of Superintendent Tom Crowe at Bonham.
“Basically, we’re trying to relieve some massive overcrowding we’re going to experience. We’re going to be overcrowding some other schools, as well,” Crowe said.
In 2018, Jordan Elementary is predicted to have 1,120 students. Crowe said its capacity is about 700.
Buice has a capacity of 650 students, but is predicted to have 952 students in 2018.
Johnson also is capped at 650 students, but Crowe said it will have 1,192 in 2018.
Some students would be moved to Goliad, Ross, Ireland and Blanton. The added students will bring Goalid Elementary to 664 students in 2018; Ross to 505 students; Ireland to 729 students; and 723 at Blanton.
Crowe said this would drop Jordan to 826 students.
He said those in their last year at a campus would be able to stay if they want to.
The idea of giving Hays STEAM Academy an attendance zone along with magnet status raised some questions from parents. The campus has 411 to 420 students.
Crowe said administration will talk to Principal Amy Anderson about the change. A couple of parents had already talked to the principal.
Elizabeth Rivera, who has a kindergarten student at Hays, said students who attend the school have to pass a test to get in. This is the first year Hays has been a STEAM academy.
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“It is the only school running a science, technology, engineering, art and math program within ECISD, so essentially this is a pilot program,” Rivera said. “Our students have excelled really well, but they were all tested to get in.”
Someone who just walked in wouldn’t fare well if they were not prepared for the program, Rivera said.
“We’re concerned about that. We’re concerned about what it would do our school,” Rivera said. “Our kids are very well prepared. They have standards they have to meet, not only from attendance but to their classroom and homework, so it’s a little more rigorous.”
Rivera said her son has homework every night, which some might say is crazy, especially for the amount he brings home.
“But it’s the way that he was trained in the program,” she said. “We compare the work that he does to another school and it seems like it could be hours of homework. But it’s something that he’s become accustomed to, so our students are prepared in a different level at that school.”
Rivera said she understands that the population is continuing to grow and she’s not opposed to adding more students, but she was bothered that Hays was singled out.
“There are several in our area. One of the ones that is comparable to Hays is Reagan (Magnet Elementary). That’s an academy that you have to test to get into, as well. That was completely left off, so it’s alarming to see that we come here and only Hays is being targeted,” Rivera said.
One of the solutions she mentioned is to have students coming in test in.
“Otherwise our school ultimately will have a double standard where some students have to apply to get in and the others get a free pass through the door. How is that fair to our students and how is it fair to those who are applying to get in, but will not be accepted because they did not pass the test …,” Rivera said.
Crowe said other magnets are not being looked at right now, but would certainly be considered down the road.
“Where Hays sits relieves a seriously overpopulated elementary,” where moving students to some of the others wouldn’t and would involve altered bus routes.
This proposal would not.
Maureen McCullagh, who has two sons at Permian High School and one at Nimitz Middle School, talked about parking at Nimitz. She said she thought the rezoning would work if it alleviated problems for the schools.
But the district has to figure out how to ease the parking situation at Nimitz, which has gotten worse over the past four years. McCullagh suggested a staggered student release because it’s “atrocious at Nimtiz.”
On a separate issue, Board Vice President Doyle Woodall talked about the shortage of teachers and space. In the upper grades, Woodall said the core classes seem to have some overcrowding.
“We just have a teacher shortage; we have a building shortage; we have a room shortage. Kids are going to go to school. We’re going to have class every day,” Woodall said.
A second rezoning proposal pairs Pease and Noel and Zavala and Travis elementary schools together.
In each case, one campus would be for prekindergarten through first or second grade and the other would focus on the upper elementary grades, information from the district said.
The plan would meet the state’s requirement for repurposing schools that are in their fifth-year of improvement required status under state accountability standards while focusing on early childhood literacy (with more pre-k spaces), “which is an area of weakness for our community,” the information said.
Ector County Independent School District has eight campuses on improvement required status. Ector, Noel and Zavala elementary schools are in their fifth year. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.
Crowe also proposed changes to current middle school boundaries and two potential options for leveling enrollment across the city.
It begins with one section of Ector Middle School students who right now attend Permian High School. Those students would be moved to attend Bonham Middle School, thereby creating a “pure feeder system” from the middle schools to the two comprehensive high schools. A portion of Bonham would switch to Nimitz and a portion of Crockett students would move to Ector, the information said.