Thursday, January 7, 2016

Even More About Enrollment Growth

I had three takeaways from the Richardson ISD's 2016 Bond "listening tour."
  • Those multipurpose facilities (MPFs) seemed expensive. Comparisons with similar facilities in other school districts were lacking.
  • There wasn't enough in the bond to address anticipated enrollment growth over the next five years.
  • There appeared to be no way to avoid a tax rate increase, even if only maintenance and construction for enrollment growth were addressed.
The RISD school board addressed the first two of my takeaways at their December 7th meeting. What I said then:
It's too bad that the scheduled enrollment growth study couldn't have been accelerated so its results could have been presented to the public on this "listening tour." It's too bad that a placeholder for additional expansion wasn't included in the 2016 bond proposal so the public would know that the school board is aware of the need. But that's water under the bridge. I'm confident that by the time the school board signs off on any bond package that projected enrollment growth will be comprehended in it.
Source: The Wheel.
Now at their January 5th meeting, the school board took further steps to address my second takeaway, and in the process, my first takeaway as well. I consider those steps to be steps back in the right direction.
Lake Highlands Advocate has the story.
At last night's RISD Board Study Session, district officials recommended shuffling the deck of 2016 bond money to shift $21.5 million from the construction of multipurpose practice facilities and $6.1 million from the redesign of libraries for a mix of solutions -- including construction -- to make way for the waves of new students drawn to RISD elementary schools, particularly in Lake Highlands.
More details can be found in the RISD's own School Times Now.

So the school district managed to divert $27 million in the proposed bond package towards school expansion to address increased enrollment. And $21.5 million of that comes out of those high-priced multipurpose facilities. Win-win.

I suspect we would have ended up in this very same place if the school district hadn't embarked on that "listening tour" in December, but instead waited until after the study on enrollment growth was completed in January. If so, we might have avoided some of the angst, particularly in Lake Highlands, over the perceived lack of attention to enrollment growth. But maybe the calendar precluded delaying the "listening tour." And who knows, maybe the forceful feedback on enrollment growth and on the cost of the multipurpose facilities was needed to force the district's hand. Or maybe this was a game of three-dimensional chess and the school board timed all this to give the appearance of listening to voters and responding to their feedback. Don't overthink this, Mark. As long as we ended up more or less in the right place, I'm not complaining.

As for the third of my takeaways, the need for a tax rate increase, I promoted breaking up the bond package into three or four separate propositions for the voters to consider. Like I said in December, what comes of that takeaway, I'll have to wait until all the content of the bond is determined.


Mark Steger said...

I might have spoken too soon. According to Lake Highlands Advocate, parents don't much care for RISD's revised plans. To relieve overcrowding, they don't like shifting attendance boundaries and they don't like enlarging schools. That leaves as their option number one building a new school just for fifth and sixth graders, drawing from several elementary schools. To me, that sounds like changing boundaries for everyone (when they get to fifth and sixth grades) and putting everyone in larger grade-level configurations (when they reach fifth and sixth grades). But if this is what the majority of parents really, really want, I'll give them my vote.

Mark Steger said...

According to the January 21 School Times Now, "a majority of Community Bond Advisory Committee members recommend a single proposition for the upcoming bond package, rather than multiple propositions." Not what I would recommend -- too many angles to attack this bond proposition to feel comfortable that an all-or-nothing proposition will pass.