After a marathon discussion that included reading emailed public comments on the record, the Boerne Independent School District trustees Monday night unanimously voted to rezone elementary school boundaries to help accommodate the expected rapid growth in the area.
Conducting its April meeting via Zoom, with at times almost 100 people signed on, the rezoning discussion and decision took up the majority of the nearly three-hour meeting.
In a nutshell, the rezoning is an attempt to ease overcrowding in the district’s elementary schools by adjusting the borders that surround each of the seven campuses.
“Rezoning hurts when you do it,” school board President Joe Tidwell said during the meeting. “But it meets the goals of the district while minimizing the number of students and families affected.”
The trustees approved “Proposal A,” but with an amendment to the original recommendation of the 30-member rezoning committee, which began meeting in January to study the situation and work toward what it thought was the best solution. There were two proposals on the table.
The amendment allows parents in two “planned units” to have a choice of which one of two elementary schools their children may attend.
Planned Unit 60 includes Spring Creek Estates and the future Friendly Hills subdivision northwest of Boerne. Students there may go to either Curington or Herff elementaries.
Planned Unit 78 includes Stone Creek Ranch, The Homestead, Ammann Farms and the future Boerne Ranch Estates east of Boerne. Students there may attend either Cibolo Creek or Fair Oaks Ranch elementaries.
Any fifth-graders affected will have the choice to attend their same school or transfer to the recommended campus.
Middle and high schools are not affected.
BISD Chief Administrative Officer Ashley Stewart led the rezoning presentation.
“As you know, our area is growing quickly, and because of that some of our buildings are becoming increasingly more crowded day by day,” she said, adding the committee focused on expected growth over the next three to four years.
“Please know that rezoning schools is one of the most difficult tasks for a school district and it is not something that is done lightly,” she said. “But it is something that is done frequently by fast-growth districts such as ours.”
The last time BISD rezoned its elementary school boundaries was before the 2016 bond was passed to include Van Raub and Herff schools.
Stewart said no new buildings are scheduled to be constructed in the near future. Projected enrollment numbers show that if nothing was done and zoning boundaries remained the same, Van Raub Elementary would reach 120 percent of capacity in the 2022-23 academic year and house more than 1,000 students as early as 2021-22. Fair Oaks Ranch, Herff and Kendall elementaries would follow at 120 percent of capacity in 2028-29. By that time, all three of those schools would educate 1,000-plus children.
In 2020-21, total elementary school enrollment is projected to be 4,578 students compared to the current 4,394. By 2028-29, the number of kindergarten through fifth-grade students is expected to be 7,267, an increase of 65 percent.
Numbers were provided by the district’s demographer, Population and Survey Analysts. Stewart said Van Raub is BISD’s fastest-growing campus.
The approved recommendation keeps elementary enrollments across the district more evenly distributed.
Information shared on Monday showed that without the change, Van Raub would house a projected high of 898 students in 2020-21 while Herff would have a low of 530. The approved change moves those numbers to 807 at Van Raub and 511 at Herff.
Enrollment at Cibolo Creek, Curington and Fabra will increase while student numbers at Fair Oaks Ranch and Kendall, as well as Van Raub and Herff, will decrease.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 school year, Van Raub Elementary still will have the most students at 956. Curington will have the fewest at 665.
The numbers take into account transfers in the district such as specialized programs like dual language.
(See chart on Page 1 for more information.)
Stewart said the goal of the committee was to consider attendance zones for all BISD elementary schools that will provide relief for overcrowded campuses. She said the district wants to make sure it is utilizing all campuses to the greatest and most equitable degree possible.
She noted that decisions were made taking into account the fastest growth in the district is occurring along the Interstate 10 corridor and that many Kendall County roads are “disconnected.”
“In order to achieve our goal, we had to determine what facts we had to guide our work,” she said.
Before the meeting, individuals had the opportunity to submit comments through email. Dozens were sent.
In adhering to board policy, Chief Human Resources Officer Elaine Howard spent up to 3 minutes reading individual comments for 30 minutes. All of the emails were against rezoning the elementary boundaries.
All of the emails, read aloud or not, were entered into the record.
During discussion, the seven BISD trustees agreed rezoning elementary boundaries was not taken lightly and they understand the concerns of affected parents and students.
“Some of you left unsatisfied by this,” Tidwell said toward the end of the discussion. “With our growth, this is not forever. We need to make our zones last as long as we can, but we will be doing it again in the future.”