Preparations for three new Cy-Fair ISD campuses will begin in the coming months, after several years of postponement due to state funding issues.
To address projections that several campuses will be overcapacity in the coming years, trustees approved in December the opening dates for two elementary campuses and one middle school, all of which will be constructed to the west of Barker Cypress Road.
“The growth in the western portion of the district, particularly in the area of Warner Elementary, represents the most pressing need for enrollment relief at the elementary level,” said Pam Wells, associate superintendent for governmental, community and planning initiatives.
In 2000, about 3,600 people lived within the boundaries of the 77433 ZIP code, which spans the western portion of CFISD, bordered in the east by Barker Cypress and in the west by Katy Hockley Road. Due in part to the addition of several master-planned communities in the area, census data showed that as of 2010, more than 50,000 people live in the area, accounting for a growth of 1,288 percent.
Last fall, Bridgeland homeowners formed a group called Start 53 Now to address growth at Warner, a school that is approaching an enrollment of 1,400 students. The group had been lobbying for the district to stick with Elementary 53’s proposed opening date of 2013 to relieve crowding at Warner.
Paula Gay Luebsen was one of several residents who spoke in favor of the 2013-14 opening date at a Dec. 12 board meeting. She cited several occurrences from 2011 that may have attributed to student growth in the western portion of the district.
“Who knew Segment E of the Grand Parkway, which bisects the very heart of Bridgeland, would break ground and be set for completion in 2013,” she said. “Who knew when ExxonMobil announced their 360-acre corporate campus…it would create immediate draw into Bridgeland for those couples with one partner employed by Exxon and the other employed in the Energy Corridor off I-10? Who knew Cypress Creek Lakes, the subdivision that surrounds Warner, would start work on its third phase? If you build it, they will come.”
Elementary 54 will open in 2014 among the thousands of acres being developed south of Bridgeland, in the community of Canyon Lakes West.
“This is an ideal location for a school,” Wells said.
Additionally, trustees approved a 2014 opening date for Middle School 15, which will be constructed next to Rennell Elementary in Towne Lake.
Voters approved a bond in 2007 that included plans for eight elementary, three middle and two high school campuses. Three elementary campuses and one middle school have been constructed to date. However, since the bond was passed, the opening dates have been constantly reevaluated.
“The postponing was due, in part, to a somewhat slowed down student growth rate across the district as a whole, but primarily because of the inequitable and inadequate funding of CFISD,” Wells said. “Our district has had the bond capacity and community approval to build new schools, but the Texas legislature didn’t provide necessary operations funding to make us feel comfortable about opening new campuses.”
Although new home construction is occurring within the district, CFISD does not benefit from increases in property value, due to the school finance system. According to Stuart Snow, associate superintendent for business and financial services, the capital costs to construct these new schools will be paid for by the bond funds. The operating cost to open a new elementary school is about $1.5 million, $2.5 million for a middle school and $5 million to run a high school, all of which comes out of the general operating budget.
“Since the opening [dates] will span one more legislative session, and with the uncertainty that a legislative session brings to the structure of school finance, we really don’t know if resources used to fund the opening of a new school would prevent any additional reductions in our operating budget,” Snow said. “Under the current finance system, yes, we would make a provision for that [new] school and possibly make budget reductions in other areas.”
The 2007 bond also made provisions for two high school campuses, which are now slated to open before 2020. The proposed site for High School 11 is on FM 529, while High School 12 may be built somewhere to the west of Barker Cypress. According to Wells, one of the new schools could be built in the southwestern portion of CFISD, near Cy-Lakes and Cy-Springs.
“The largest growth for a period of years was in that area,” Wells said. “Now, the greater growth is in the area off Fry Road, so we’ll have to continue to evaluate.”
To relieve crowding at Warner Elementary, located across Fry Road, Elementary 53 will serve students from the master-planned community of Bridgeland starting in the 2013-14 school year. The campus will be designed by PBK architects and located in The Cove, one of the communities within Bridgeland.
The land for Elementary 54, which will be built within the Canyon Lakes West community and be open for the 2014-15 school year, was donated to the district in December. Land Tejas Companies offered to donate the school site, which is valued at $900,000. It is the second site that has been donated to CFISD.
Middle School 18
Bay Architects will create a new design for Middle School 18, which will be located on district-owned property adjacent to Rennell Elementary in Towne Lake for the 2013-14 school year. This campus will be the second middle school to be constructed with the 2007 bond funds.