It takes great skill and hours of practice to walk a tightrope; expert experience to balance successfully. Just ask the famous Wallenda family. Likewise, balancing school campus population numbers is a daunting assignment for professional education tacticians.
The current Flower Mound High School (FMHS) feeder-school boundaries are unbalanced and need correction for the present student enrollment, anticipated attendance population shifts and future town growth.
A rezoning committee—two parents from each of the nine elementary and three middle schools-- was formed to create solutions to balance attendance numbers. Two public meetings to discuss possible solutions are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at Forestwood Middle School (FWMS) and Feb. 12 at McKamy Middle School (MMS).
The Lewisville Independent School District (LISD) has set a 90-percent capacity goal for each school and routinely reviews its campuses. Currently, McKamy (MMS) is at 100.26-percent capacity with three portable school rooms and Shadow Ridge Middle School (SRMS) at 100.50-percent, while Forestwood (FWMS)—the campus with the largest capacity— has a student body equaling only 50-percent of its capacity.
A major reason the middle school campus numbers no longer balance is that there are two campuses south of FM 1171 (Cross Timbers) and east of FM 2499 (Long Prairie), but only one west of that multi-lane, north-south traffic barrier.
Unfortunately, the majority of town population growth since 1996 has been mostly west of FM 2499, while school attendance east of that has declined.
The well-meaning committee of parent nominees who accepted the LISD assignment to create new boundary lines, without the requested financial-impact results for bussing, has narrowed down its proposals to four—two each for elementary and middle schools.
Each proposal has opposition from the neighborhoods most affected by the outlined zoning changes.
For instance, a petition against Middle School Proposal 1 already has 650 signatures. Authored by Kristi Hassett, the petition is to keep Wellington Elementary School zoned for MMS, not FWMS.
Most complaints center on maintaining walk-to elementary school neighborhood campus boundaries and transportation-related time and financial impact concerns. Questions about student safety and common-sense traffic, man-made or natural neighborhood barriers to form borders were also listed by parents.
On-campus safety at MMS was also a frequently-mention parental concern. One parent noted on Facebook that: “McKamy kids are having to cross the parking lot right at the time Old Settlers Elementary was letting out. Tons of cars and kids in the parking lot at the same time.”
For the students who will have their school days impacted, the list of priorities usually focuses on life outside the classroom. It may include: how soon they can get home to eat; what friends are free to hang with; what sport practice or dance class is scheduled; time for whatever tech-based game/video or program is currently of interest; TV viewing; and, ultimately, homework.
The elementary student’s view is centered on the geographic area around home and familiar pathways through their immediate neighborhood. They can walk or bike to friend’s homes, a nearby park and the nearest school playground, which helps reinforce younger students’ confidence, independence and sense of security.
Not mentioned by parents on Facebook are the positive outcomes in middle school of making new friends with similar interests from other elementary schools and the opportunity to break existing student cliques or bullying situations. The middle school transition provides a new physical setting and safe environment for personal growth. It’s a safe environment to gain self assurance prior to becoming little “fish” in the large high school “bowl.”
Also of interest is that both elementary school proposals were determined and drawn by the need to balance the middle school overcrowding/under enrollment issue, rather than trying to maintain neighborhood campuses. It seems to be a cart-before-the-horse approach to problem solving.
The LISD policy to center its elementary schools within walking-distance neighborhoods is a common-sense approach to zoning. It reinforces the requirement that students live two-miles or farther from their designated school campus to be eligible to ride the district’s school buses.
Elementary school-aged children are most restricted by distance and physical barriers, such as: busy traffic arteries like FM 2499, Morriss Rd., Bruton Orand and Flower Mound Rd.; sound-barrier walls like those along McKamy Creek that limit neighborhood access; “pocket” neighborhoods formed by the lack of connecting/through streets like those east and west off Simmons Rd.; and, natural barriers like creeks or open acreage like the future Lakeside development.
Transportation outside the familiar inner-circle geography requires adult participation via a parent, a carpool or—for after-school daycare— a van or private bus.
Middle school students may venture farther-- through a greater number of neighborhoods within a larger circle—and expand their interests and social opportunities. They may have access to school-sponsored after-school activities, but, even if they live on a bus route, will need a parent, carpool or other private vehicle pick up like their fellow students who participate in non-school-sponsored activities. Pre-teens and young teenagers form groups outside the classroom or grade level and may not share classes with former friends at all.
A new campus setting for all students to any new middle school makes adjusting boundary lines around internal neighborhood barriers-- for external boundaries-- an easier task than carving up elementary school walking-distance zones.
The safety of those students who would either walk or bike home from school to a neighborhood separated by a major traffic artery, such as Long Prairie, will be studied by the Flower Mound Police Department (FMPD).
“We conduct regular assessments on every school campus crossing,” said Assistant Chief Wendell Mitchell. “We have an evaluation process, SCGI (School Crossing Guard Index) that looks at such variables as traffic flow, visibility, speed of traffic and adequate staff.”
Finally, another “cart-before-the-horse” issue has been raised by parents.
Why has LISD formed a committee of parents without educational expertise to present rezoning proposals that could impact a majority of FMHS feeder-school students and families?
Rather, shouldn’t LISD present options created by professionals to be reviewed, “tweaked” or rejected by a committee of parents, each seeking to protect their home campus.
In other words, the present situation would be like a group of people with a fear of heights telling Nik Wallenda how to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls; “fall” being the noteworthy word.
If approved by the school board in April, the new boundaries would go into effect in the 2013-14 school year. Incoming fifth- and eighth-grade students would be allowed to complete their final year at their current school, as well as siblings of those students.
To view the current boundary zones and four proposed rezoning options, visit: www.lisd.net.
Here are the highlights of the four rezoning proposals:
Proposal 1 - Elementary Schools
• Donald Elementary zone extended west across FM 2499 to Old Settlers Rd. and north from Firewheel Dr. (currently zoned within walking distance of Old Settlers Elementary and MMS); feeds into FWMS.
• Forest Vista Elementary extended east to Garden Ridge Blvd. (eliminating attendance at Vickery Elementary by students in the neighborhood surrounding the school, which is physically located west of Garden Ridge Blvd.); feeds into FWMS.
• Old Settlers zone extends west from FM 2499 across southern areas of current Liberty Elementary and Wellington Elementary's zones to Rocky Point Rd. and south of Wichita Trail to Grapevine Lake; in Proposal 1-Middle School, feeds only into MMS. (Currently, Old Settlers zone has north-south boundary lines and is divided between MMS north of McKamy Creek, while neighborhoods south of that attend SRMS.)
• Wellington Elementary southern boundary is Wichita Tr.; feeds into FWMS in Proposal1-Middle School. (Currently it runs north-south from FM 1171 to Grapevine Lake and feeds only into MMS.)
• Liberty Elementary southern boundary is Wichita Tr., rather than Grapevine Lake; feeds into MMS.
• Garden Ridge and Bluebonnet Elementary boundaries remain unchanged; feed into SRMS.
Proposal 2 - Elementary Schools
• Donald Elementary zone extended west across FM 2499 to Old Settlers Rd. and north of FM 3040 (OSE is located at that intersection)
• Forest Vista, Vickery, and Garden Ridge zones unchanged; all feed into FWMS. (Since the 2005 opening of SRMS, Garden Ridge left its original FWMS feeder zone)
• Bluebonnet unchanged; feeds into SRMS
• Wellington and Liberty southern boundaries are Wichita Tr., (currently it’s Grapevine Lake); feed into MMS.
• Old Settlers northern boundary changes to Wichita Tr./Arbor Creek/FM 3040 to the FM 2499 eastern boundary and west to High Meadow Rd, with Grapevine Lake as the southern boundary; neighborhoods will feed into all middle schools. (Currently, OSE’s northern border is FM 1171 north between FM 2499 to the east and Old Settlers Rd./Simmons Rd. to the west; feeds into MMS north of McKamy Creek and south of there into SRMS.)
Proposal 1 - Middle Schools
• FWMS—Donald, Forest Vista and Wellington (new elementary boundaries); 1056 of 1250 capacity
• MMS-- Old Settlers and Liberty (new elementary boundaries); 897 of 1150 capacity
• SRMS—only Bluebonnet and Garden Ridge; 533 of of 800 capacity
Proposal 2 - Middle Schools
• FWMS—Donald (with west extension to Old Settlers Rd. across FM 2499 and north of FM 3040/Flower Mound Rd.), Forest Vista, Vickery (current zone west of Garden Ridge Blvd.) and Garden Ridge (returning from SRMS re-zoning in 2005); 912 of 1250 capacity
• SRMS—Bluebonnet, OSE (south of McKamy Creek plus Liberty (south of Wichita Tr. And west of Barton Creek); 597 of 800 capacity
• MMS—Wellington and Liberty (north of Wichita Tr.) plus OSE (section between FM 3040/McKamy Creek/Simmons Rd.); 977 of 1150 capacity