The Mansfield school district has rezoned all grade levels for the 2020 school year, a move that will relieve overcrowding at several campuses in the southern part of the district.
Redrawing attendance zones is usually controversial as parents fight to keep their children at their existing schools, especially if they’re involved in athletics or other extra-curricular activities. Assigning a neighborhood to a different high school usually prompts parents to get the pitchforks.
But not this year.
The Mansfield school district has rezoned multiple times over the last two decades so the administration has this down to a science with months of committee meetings and forums seeking input from parents.
School board trustees approved the recommended maps with little discussion at the May 22 meeting. There was no opposition from parents or students.
“I thought it was very smooth. I found that the committee had good questions, that they were interested and that we listened,” said David Wright, assistant superintendent of student services and support. “There wasn’t anything that concerned me in the entire process.”
The new maps assign students to the future Brenda Norwood Elementary School, Alma Martinez Intermediate School and Charlene McKinzey Middle School. The new schools, all within the booming South Pointe master planned community, will open in the fall of 2020.
The largest opposition came from Elizabeth Smith Elementary School parents who didn’t want their children to be rezoned to the new intermediate and middle schools west of Texas 360.
Wright said it was necessary because it relieves overcrowding at Mary Lillard Intermediate School and Danny Jones Middle School. The alternative would be to split other zones, disrupting more than one elementary school, Wright said.
Some Legacy parents also opposed a plan to move students to their campus from Lake Ridge, saying it would overcrowd their campus and could push them into a larger athletic district. There’s no new high school in the latest bond package so the attendance zones just shift students from one campus to another.
The district responded to the feedback by creating a third option that moves students who live south of East Broad Street, east of Main Street and north of Heritage Parkway to Mansfield High School. This plan splits the influx of students between Mansfield and Legacy.
That third option was the one approved by school board trustees.
As in previous rezonings, students at the top of each grade configuration can apply to remain at their existing campus. So, fourth-graders, sixth-graders, eighth-graders and juniors and seniors could opt to not switch schools.
Conversely, students who know they will be rezoned to a new campus could opt to move one year earlier, Wright said. For example, a student who will be a freshman for the 2019-20 school year could decide to attend Legacy or Mansfield from the start rather than attend freshman year at Lake Ridge and then move.
“That’s something that we’re projecting to allow for the 2019-2020 school year,” Wright said. “We will start advertising that later next fall. They would have to fill out a form to tell us that they’re going to do that.”
Construction on McKinzey is projected to start in September with Norwood and Martinez starting by the end of the year, said Jeff Brogden, associate superintendent of facilities and bond programs.
Looking to the future
Mansfield ISD is already planning for the next round of schools as new homes pop up like weeds.
On the far west side of the district, Mansfield ISD already demolished the former Tarver-Rendon Elementary School campus on Rendon Road. Now, the district plans to expand the site so it could accommodate a future intermediate school. The district purchased all but two properties that it needs on Ponderosa Lane.
At the May 22 meeting, trustees authorized the district to use eminent domain if necessary to close on a property just to the north of the school at 209 Ponderosa Lane.
The home is abandoned and the original owner approached the district about selling. The district conducted an appraisal but the owners wanted more money, Brogden said. The district went above the appraisal price but negotiations went south again. In the meantime, the property sold to a new owner who continued negotiating with the district.
“The property owners are interested in selling, they just want a little more for the property than it’s actually worth,” Brogden said. “We’ve gone two offers above the original appraisal. There’s no resident on the property — it’s completely abandoned. We’re not forcing anyone to move out.”
Brogden added that the district will continue negotiating until the eminent domain hearing.
“We’re going to work with them and we’re going try to come up with a compromise,” Brogden said. “Being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers, I couldn’t take it way beyond the appraisal.”
The district owns other properties that could accommodate future school sites, especially in the southwest portion of the district.
The future M3 Ranch project will add more than 1,500 single-family homes and 375 townhomes to the sprawling prairie on FM 917. The zoning change for the master planned community was postponed to the July 9 City Council meeting.
Mansfield ISD already has a future high school site near M3 Ranch at South Main Street and Flying L Lane that could be the sixth high school. Adjacent to that, the district owns land for a future middle school. There’s also a potential elementary school site on FM 917. And an intermediate school could be built on land nearby.
“M3 Ranch is moving slowly but when it starts it’s going to impact us greatly,” said Paul Cash, executive director of facilities and maintenance. “Once they get rolling, it’s going to be just like South Pointe.”
In the far west part of the district, there’s not only potential for an intermediate school where Tarver-Rendon used to be but even potential for another high school on a large tract of land on Rendon New Hope Road just north of FM 1187.
Within South Pointe, the district owns a tract that’s too small for an elementary school but could find another use, such as a second pre-k center like the Dr. Sarah Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners.
And in Grand Prairie’s Mira Lagos development, the district owns a site that could be a future elementary school to relieve overcrowding in that area.
None of these schools have been included in any bond elections--administrators want to wait to see how the land actually develops first.
“The board and the superintendent were so forward thinking that we already have the property,” Cash said.