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Trustees to Consider Adopting New Elementary Attendance Boundaries

The Belton ISD Board of Trustees will consider adopting new elementary attendance boundaries at its regular board meeting at 6:15 p.m. on Monday in the Pittenger Fine Arts Center.

The changes are needed as the construction of two elementary schools — James L. Burrell Elementary and Hubbard Branch Elementary — is underway and an addition is planned at Southwest Elementary. 

When these projects are complete, Belton ISD will net 1,394 elementary student seats district-wide. This includes an additional 1,700 from the projects while absorbing 306 seats with the closure of Miller Heights Elementary.

The district will also decrease the number of portables in use by 21, or 84%, by the start of the 2024-2025 school year — a priority for trustees and the Bond Exploration Committee convened in 2021.

The projects are funded by the May 2022 bond voters passed to address growth in the north and south sectors of the almost 200 square miles of Belton ISD where ongoing enrollment growth is making the biggest impact. 

“We opened our last elementary school in 2019,” Michael Morgan, assistant superintendent of operations, said. “That was the last time we adjusted our attendance boundaries and since then, student enrollment has grown by about 1,500.”

As part of the district’s goal to engage stakeholders, the district began the process to develop new attendance boundary options in August in partnership with the community. By the time the process is complete, Belton ISD stakeholder groups will have had six opportunities to give feedback.

“We started with feedback from our long-range facility planning team and other committees of various stakeholders and community members to determine what priorities would guide our planning,” Morgan said. “We wanted our ultimate recommendation to the board to be data-driven and reflect the feedback we received throughout the process.”

Parents were invited in November to weigh in on priorities via a ThoughtExchange survey, which collected 900 responses.

In December, trustees adopted five parameters as the most important to consider when creating new attendance boundaries:

Growth — Best efforts will be made to plan for future development so that lines do not have to be redrawn between future scheduled campus openings.

Socioeconomic Factors — Consideration will be given to the socioeconomic makeup of each attendance zone.

Neighborhood Unity — Best efforts will be made to keep subdivisions and neighborhoods together.

Family Impact — Best efforts will be made to consider the impact that changing attendance zones will have on families.

Feeder Pattern Alignment — Best efforts will be made to keep students together as they move through elementary, middle and high school.

Next, district leaders worked with Zonda Education, a demographics team the district uses to calculate enrollment projections, to start modeling proposed boundary changes based on these parameters.  

Three potential scenarios were presented to parents and community members to consider and offer feedback on. 

“We emailed parents a video presentation in March explaining the different scenarios being considered and included a short feedback opportunity,” Morgan said. “We also offered two in-person listening sessions for families to meet with district leaders directly to convey their thoughts and concerns. Overall, we received 210 survey responses and about 30 people attend the listening sessions. All of this feedback helped inform the final recommendation we will take to the Board on Monday.”

“All three scenarios being brought to the board significantly decrease enrollment at Chisholm Trail Elementary and Tarver Elementary to alleviate current overcrowding and allow for future growth”, Morgan said. The scenarios also include strategies to relieve capacity pressure in the geographical middle of the district at Charter Oak Elementary, Sparta Elementary and Lakewood Elementary.

“These scenarios gave our community options to consider and provide feedback on,” Morgan said. “It’s likely that we won’t select just one but, with the board’s feedback, incorporate the most effective elements from all scenarios into a final recommendation.”

The new boundaries are expected to take effect for the 2024-2025 school year except for Burrell Elementary, which is expected to open mid-year in January 2024. 

After boundaries are adopted by trustees, the district will communicate with families assigned to Burrell Elementary on plans to provide enrollment relief to Tarver Elementary in the fall. All families will be informed of circumstances in which a student may be eligible to remain at their current school and which campuses will be open for new transfer requests.

Morgan praised the Board of Trustees for its commitment to listening to stakeholders during this months-long process.

“Our ultimate goal is to manage growth, maximize the use of our facilities and reduce the use of long-term portables,” he said. “In a nutshell — be good stewards of the funds taxpayers have entrusted to us and serve our students well.”

March 23, 2023