On Friday, February 8, the Flower Mound Town Council will consider a resolution that expresses many of the concerns our residents have communicated to the Council regarding the proposed elementary and middle school rezoning. As both the LISD and the Town of Flower Mound have explained, the two are separate in nature, with different taxing authority, governing bodies and missions; however, many of our residents have implored us to be part of the communication efforts as they have justifiably expressed we are inexplicably intertwined. This is difficult to argue when the most important reason given why families consider Flower Mound is the quality education provided by our schools.
As the Committee reviews its final recommendations, one aspect that cannot be ignored is the impact the schools play on the communities they serve. In all Flower Mound neighborhoods, the hub of interaction revolves around the schools in that area. While it is important to provide the highest product inside the classroom, the impact outside the classroom must also be considered. The bonding of friendships among children, as well as their parents, is a major driver in a successful community. If the spirit of community is interrupted or separated, does this hinder the long term desirability of a particular neighborhood and ultimately impact the success of a school? It is often said a home is not about walls, but the interaction of the people inside. The same could be said about a school and a neighborhood. How does a child interact and form lasting bonds when a major state highway may separate one another.
This leads to another concern voiced by our residents. Geographic boundaries are often identified by major obstacles. States and countries are many times separated by rivers, and to the greatest extent possible, educational zones consider major roadways. This was accomplished in the high school zones with FM 1171 being the divider between Marcus and Flower Mound High, and perhaps a similar boundary should be a considered in this instance. FM 2499 currently averages over 60,000 car counts a day and is the busiest road in Flower Mound. With the north section of FM 2499 connecting with I-35 and the final completion of the DFW connector, the traffic can only be expected to increase. A decade from now, daily car counts approaching 100,000 a day on FM 2499 are certainly a possibility.
While overcapacity and under-capacity are certainly drivers when considering educational zones, the long term capacity considerations are certainly the most important. While it has been pointed out that several of the schools in Wellington are “near capacity”, studies sponsored by the LISD show this problem self correcting in the next two to three years. Correcting a short term problem with a decision that has long term implications has never proven to be successful. Addressing the underutilization at Forestwood, to use one of Steve Dixon’s favorite statements, perhaps “outside the box” considerations should be employed. Currently Forestwood’s student population is just under 650 students, and a desired population of 750 to 800 would be optimal.
One option would be to consider transporting students from new neighborhoods such as Lakeside, where residents know going in which schools their children will be attending while limiting the impact to existing neighborhoods.
Rather than mandating rezoning, perhaps the committee could help the LISD and the Town of Flower Mound develop suggestions that would promote voluntary rezoning. This previous Monday I was unaware, but quickly learned that “magnet schools” or “charter schools” is not always the favorite terms of some educators. That thought aside, we should focus on what we can do to make Forestwood a school that is so outstanding that people are beating down the doors to get in, voluntarily adding 100 additional students. Maybe the solution is adding additional resources to make Forestwood the most technologically advanced school in the area, and/or the town considering re-budgeting our funding priorities to add additional trail connections so more students can ride their bikes and connect with the school. We could also consider refreshing the park that is behind the school or adding up-to-date sports fields. I personally don’t have the answers, but am confident that the decision making bodies, if working together could find solutions.
While I certainly cannot speak for the other members of Council, I know each of them well enough that if reasonable proposals are presented, they will all bend over backwards to help preserve our community. We seek a collaborative relationship with the LISD, and we encourage the committee to consider ideas where we as a Town and the LISD can work together to solve problems. Because at the end of the day, we are all inexplicably intertwined.