Sunday, November 9, 2008

Conroe School District - 2008 Rezoning Controversies for Mitchell, Deretchin, Coulson Tough and Galatas

Here in Indian Springs, as well as adjoining villages, we face an issue with school zoning and feeder systems. After passing a bond issue last fall to increase capacity, there is a controversy on how to proceed with rezoning the elementary schools, a necessary consideration for capacity change. A group of interested residents in this and neighboring villages have put their energy into studying the proposal and petitioning the ABC (Attendance Boundary Committee) committee in CISD to not rezone the schools, as has been recently proposed. Today and tomorrow the ABC committee presents their conclusions to the parents of these schools. "If the ABC’s newest “Combined Scenario 1” is put in place, overcrowding problems are shifted to Mitchell in just two short years."

Changing zones affects many different things - busing, whether a child can ride a bike to school, friends, and graduation years (to higher level school). It even affects the rationale for moving into a neighborhood. As mentioned earlier in our blog supporting the election bonds in 2008, there are principles which govern the construction of buildings and the use of temporary facilities in the schools. Administrative governance using those principles is a best practice. Now the residents are questioning why there seems to be an effort to deviate away from those principles. They say they are under a time crunch to dissuade the ABC committee from recommending going forward with one option for rezoning Deretchin and Tough. Indeed there is a time critical consideration. A process is being followed that includes parents, and there are parents on the ABC committee from Deretchin and Coulson Tough. The process includes meetings with parents to communicate the results but does not appear to have a means for dissenting parents to affect the outcome.

"They want to move 300 students from Deretchin to Tough and move 400 Tough students out to Galatas and Mitchell. We believe that students should be moved out of Deretchin to Galatas and Mitchell." notes Jennifer Reitmeyer, a resident of Indian Springs and one of the leaders of this movement. She goes on to say, "With the passing of this referendum, Coulson Tough will add an additional 8 classrooms to the school. With the new addition, the capacity, according to the ABC, is 1185. Current enrollment at Tough is 1295. If you do the math, that means we will be at 109% capacity!". She notes the statement of Dr. Stockton, directed to me personally, 'I read in your article that you asked Dr. Stockton about contingency plans should there be a change in the actual growth. His response was, partly, “Actually, we do not consider a campus over capacity until it reaches 125% of the building capacity.”'

She along with several others have petitioned ABC to redirect their efforts to an alternate proposal which would better serve the district. "Many of the scenarios presented by the ABC at the original forums moved children out of Coulson Tough to then move children into Coulson Tough from Deretchin. That just did not make sense to many of the parents. The majority of the people we spoke to agreed that moving the least amount of families would be in the best interest of everyone involved. So our main objective was to present the committee with ideas that impacted the least amount of children while maximizing use of CISD facilities. Another concern of many parents was the bond referendum that was passed in May. Many feel that it was presented as the solution to overcrowding at Tough. Nothing was said about rezoning back in the spring before the referendum was passed. This whole issue of rezoning took a lot of people by surprise because they thought overcrowding was not going to be a problem at Tough once the eight classroom addition was built."

The data for the ‘United We Stand’ petition was collected by Deanna Clark and Jennifer Reitmeyer. The signatures were collected by scores of concerned parents and taxpayers. It was amazing to see so many families come together and work so hard! We had 676 people sign the ‘United We Stand’ petition. These words are really at the heart of the petition from which I quote: Our students and families would rather all stay at our school with a few “portables”, lovingly named “Tough Town”, which easily meets the goal of “providing for the education and welfare of all students…” rather than be forced into a new school and new school configuration after seven years. The newest and undeveloped areas within the Deretchin feeder zones make the most sense to convert, if necessary, to K-4/5-6, since fewer families will be affected by the reconfiguration and those that will be affected have only been there a short time, in most cases less than a year or two. Many of our families purchased our homes based on a having a CISD K-6 Flex school configuration, for the sake of our children. Many of our children and their siblings have attended Coulson Tough since its inception in 2002; strong roots develop into strong academic performance! We OPPOSE rezoning the Coulson Tough School feeder zones. The most recent response of this group is presented here just before the meeting with parents today. As the proposal has have shifted over the past couple of weeks, many of the parents not on the ABC committee are frustrated that they are not being heard and fear a poor decision is imminent.

Total number of students at Mitchell after rezoning:

School Year 5th Grade 6th Grade Total % Capacity
2009-2010 637 591 1228 102.3
2010-2011 667 637 1304 108.7
2011-2012 672 667 1309 111.6
It appears that very little attention has been paid to the effect the rezoning plans will have on Mitchell in just two short years! Mitchell Intermediate will be overcrowded as soon as this rezoning occurs, at 102.3% of building capacity. As well as looking at the current student census, you must also consider how the upcoming classes will overload the capacity of Mitchell to an even greater extent. Mitchell will be at 108.7% of capacity only 12 months after its newly rezoned students are moved in, and at a 111.6% just 24 months if this “massive student shuffle” is allowed to occur in the current Tough-Deretchin feeder zones. For CISD to ask those families to be rezoning yet again is not efficient nor is it fiscally responsible to the public.

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