A charter school that opened in August in southwest Arlington is already negotiating with the city on alternative traffic arrangements after its enrollment exceeded the original development plan’s limit of 1,200 students.
International Leadership of Texas of Arlington at 4950 S. Bowen Road is seeking a new ordinance that would revise the original plan and accommodate higher enrollment figures.
Last month the Arlington Planning and Zoning Commission approved a revised ordinance for the school based on an eventual student population of 1,416. The measure goes to the City Council for possible final approval on Tuesday.
The commissioners’ vote was 7-1 in favor of the new ordinance. Clete McAlister voted against it.
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The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school includes a 89,469-square-foot buklding on 40.8 acres. The original zoning request was approved by the city for 1,206 students, but the school opened with 1,303 and had 1,380 by early October when the city did its most recent traffic study of the area.
Last month, a school official said 1,392 students were enrolled.
The school’s traffic primarily affects South Bowen and West Bardin roads, just south of Interstate 20. Residential streets in the area have signs and barricades to attempt to keep out school traffic.
Another public charter school, Arlington Classics Academy, is a few blocks south of IL-Texas, at 5200 S. Bowen Road.
A city staff report said that no new traffic problems were expected despite IL-Texas’ enrollment.
“Our goal is we don’t want any stacking on Bowen Road or Bardin,” said Shon Brooks, a senior development planner with the city who reported at the meeting. “There is a stipulation [in the new ordinance] to amend again if these changes don’t improve traffic to an acceptable level.”
The revised development plan would increase the maximum to 1,416 students, with traffic improvements required on site.
The changes include building about 460 feet of a 24-foot-wide road connecting the two fire lanes in the playground area to create a fourth pickup lane. Also, widening a southern entrance to the pickup/drop-off area in front of the school to allow two lanes of traffic.
If needed, a third lane could be built from the northern drive lane to the fire lane behind the school.
Construction for the traffic fixes began once the city notified the school it as violating the original agreement.
The school has adjusted class scheduling to alleviate some of the congestion, increasing the time between elementary and middle school dismissals to 30 minutes. It had been 15 minutes.
“The school enrolled more than the 1,206 on the first day of school,” said landscape architect and urban planner Cliff Mycoskie, who represented Mycoskie McInnis Associates, the applicant. “We have worked with staff on a number of mitigations to deal with the additional students that are on campus.”
Neighbors complained during a public forum at the meeting.
“Why aren’t they being held responsible for violating their development plan?” Todd Light asked. “They enrolled additional students without permission. It was done on purpose, without any regard on how it would impact the traffic.”
Daily drivers say the traffic is already bad.
“Does anyone live within two blocks of Bowen, south of I-20?” Harold Williams asked commissioners. “I wait in the morning, through three to four lights, bumper to bumper.”
“I do feel your pain,” said Commissioner Vera McKissic, who lives near Bowen Road. “Progress sometimes is painful in that way.”
A change in charter holders was cited as a reason for the disparity in enrollment numbers.
“When we first started this application, it was with a different charter holder who designed it for 1,206 students,” said a spokesman for the Charter School Fund, the property owner. “We found that that charter was not going to be approved through the state. Eddie Conger then stepped in with his charter to operate the school.”
The Charter School Fund in Boise, Idaho, finances charter school sites and facilities.
Charter schools, which are privately operated, do not receive state funds for buildings or leases, but they do receive the state’s per-student allotment and must comply with all state testing procedures.
Besides its Arlington campuses, which also include a high school campus on West Mayfield Road, International Leadership-Texas has two campuses in Garland and one in north Fort Worth.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657