In 2010, as people continued to move to the Tarrant County area in droves, new schools popped up like bluebonnets in the spring.The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district unveiled a new elementary school. Crowley opened two intermediate campuses and a career and technology center. Keller welcomed students to a new pre-kindergarten center and middle school. In the neighboring Northwest district, a specialty high school, middle school and elementary school opened.And in Mansfield, the epicenter for school growth in Tarrant County, a specialty high school and elementary school opened. The district, in southern Tarrant County, was the fifth-fastest growing in the nation with more than 25,000 students between 2005 and 2010 — Keller was ninth — according to a report by the Center for Governmental Research.At least 15 new schools opened in the Tarrant County region that year, and almost 90 in the past decade.Bond elections, which paid for new schools and other facilities such as stadiums and performing arts centers, were a way of life in the fast-growing districts, many of which had evolved from sleepy, rural communities to sprawling suburbs.But now as the boom gears down, the numbers aren’t nearly as eye-popping as the mid-2000s, when gas production in the Barnett Shale spurred significant population and job growth. From 2006 to 2007, Tarrant County added almost 39,000 residents. But from 2012 to 2013, that number dropped to just over 19,000, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The lone area exception to the slowdown appears to be the Northwest district, which sprawls across Tarrant, Denton and Wise counties and this week is opening a new school for the seventh consecutive year. The Arlington district, too, is opening a new elementary school to help offset overcrowding in east Arlington. And in the Castleberry district in River Oaks, the old Castleberry Elementary School is being replaced with a new building.Mansfield focusing on older schoolsThe slowdown is best illustrated in Mansfield and Keller.From 2005 to 2010, Mansfield grew from 22,981 students to 31,634, an increase of 38 percent. Mansfield now has 32,732 students and after opening 19 new schools in the past decade, it has shifted focus to upgrading its five oldest elementary schools.Using money from the 2011 bond election, a rebuilt Tarver-Rendon Elementary will open today, and the new Judy Miller Elementary is opening as a staging school for Boren Elementary while that school is being rebuilt, officials said.Miller, after it is done as a staging school, will open as an elementary school for the 2017-18 school year.Other schools that will be rebuilt include Ponder, Harmon and Anderson elementaries.“In the last few years, Mansfield ISD has had a slightly slower growth in student enrollment that seemed to coincide with the slower economy,” Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas said. “The slower rate allowed us some time to address needs at existing campuses.”Housing market shiftsKeller, which grew by 33 percent from 2005 to 2010 (23,665 to 31,450), last opened a school in 2011 and doesn’t expect to open another until 2016-17. It opened 22 schools from 2000 to 2011, almost all of them in north Fort Worth, where master-planned communities such as Heritage and Woodland Springs lured thousands of new residents. Keller’s current enrollment is 33,400. The district expects enrollment to grow by 300 to 400 students a year for several years.Hudson Huff, director of planning and construction for the Keller school district, said the reason for the slowdown is “a function of the number of vacant lots available.”Now, instead of building in the Keller district, the housing market has shifted north and west to the Northwest district.“Where we still have land available, we see development and activity,” Huff said. “It's just not as abundant as it used to be.”Keller owns a site for an elementary school in the southwest corner of the district, just west of Interstate 35W near Basswood Boulevard. The area is platted for about 1,400 homes. District officials are unsure when an elementary school will be needed there.“The pace of that development will determine our future building plans,” Huff said.Northwest triples since 2002Northwest, which includes parts of Tarrant, Denton and Wise counties and spans 234 square miles, passed its last bond election in 2012 — the fourth bond referendum since 2001 — as residents continue to move into dozens of planned communities in the district, most of which are in Fort Worth.The district, which is only about 10 to 15 percent built out, has grown from 6,200 students in 2002 to more than 19,000 this year, and projections show it growing by 5,800 students by 2017-18.On Tuesday, Cox Elementary School will open its doors in Roanoke, and plans call for another high school and middle school to be built.“Community members in NISD recognize the district’s fast growth and their support is reflected in the passing of a $255 million capital bond referendum last fall,” Superintendent Karen G. Rue said. “This next phase of facility development will provide for an additional 4,000 student seats and includes construction of the district’s third comprehensive high school and sixth middle school.”The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district is similar to Northwest in that its student population has grown from 8,500 in 2003 to 18,485 this year. Last year the district in northwest Tarrant County opened its third high school, Chisholm Trail High.Since 2003, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw has opened 13 new schools and two education centers. And while the growth has slowed down, projections indicate that the district will continue to add students.“Our five-year enrollment growth is projected at 3,305 students and our 10-year growth is projected at 8,232, or 25,902 students in 2023,” said Kristin Courtney, director of communications.Courtney said the district will likely build an elementary school for the 2015-16 school year.New elementary in ArlingtonIn Arlington, the district’s first two-story elementary school opens today with 800 students. It is the first new school to open in the 65,000-student district since 2005, when Anderson Elementary opened.Adams Elementary was built as a part of the Arlington district’s effort to relieve overcrowding in east Arlington schools, primarily Johns and Atherton elementaries.The district is buying land east of Texas 360 for another elementary to open in 2015, and an additional elementary on Workman Junior High School’s campus is set to open in 2016, said Leslie Johnston, Arlington’s communications director.Both elementaries will house 900 students. District officials are in the midst of a facilities assessment to look at other areas in Arlington that may need more school expansions, Johnston said.Also in Arlington, the Hurst-Euless-Bedford district plans to open an elementary school in the new master-planned community Viridian in the fall of 2014. Construction on that school began last week. Staff writers Sandra Engelland and Monica Nagy contributed to this report, which includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.
Lee Williams, 817-390-7840 Twitter: @leewatson