Alicia Cerisier bought her home in The Villages at Spring Lake in east Mansfield because all the schools from elementary to high school were a quick drive or a short walk away.
But new attendance zones proposed by the Mansfield school district would carve out the Elizabeth Smith Elementary zone and send those students to the new Alma Martinez Intermediate School and Charlene McKinzey Middle School when those schools open in 2020. Both new schools are planned in the South Pointe development west of Texas 360.
Current attendance maps send students from Smith to Mary Lillard Intermediate School and Danny Jones Middle School, both much closer to The Villages at Spring Lake neighborhood.
“It’s very unfair to longtime residents of Mansfield. We are not silent parents. We are here and have been here for quite some time,” Cerisier said. “I don’t think it’s fair that we should be uprooted when we have options so close to home.”
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Cerisier and other Smith parents spoke out against the maps at the first public meeting Feb. 22 at Lake Ridge High School. They made it clear they want their neighborhood to continue attending Lillard and Jones.
“Our whole school is impacted,” said Kat Sityar, another parent. “The new schools are 15 minutes away. People who bought houses here bought because all four schools are in our neighborhood.”
David Wright, assistant superintendent of student services and support, said the attendance zone committee process is still ongoing and there’s still time to make changes to the maps. The committee’s next meeting is March 22. They will make a recommendation to the school board on April 24. Trustees will then vote on the final attendance zone maps.
“Just because there’s two options right now it doesn’t means they’re set in stone and they won’t change,” Wright said.
The goal was to relieve overcrowding at Lillard and Jones.
This also marks the first time the district has proposed new high school attendance zones without having actually adding a high school. Like the intermediate and middle school maps, the new high school maps relieve overcrowding at Lake Ridge by sending those students to Legacy High School, particularly neighborhoods near downtown Mansfield.
But parents from Legacy also raised concerns about overcrowding at their school as 300 new students are relocated.
“I think we need other options that affect all five high schools. The burden should be spread evenly,” said Chad Hebert, a Legacy parent who spoke at the meeting. “Perception is reality. Everything is done to protect Mansfield High School.”
Redrawing attendance boundaries is always controversial in any school district, particularly when it involves high school students and sports. Parents in other parts of the district have complained ever since Summit High School opened that Mansfield High School’s attendance zone always includes the neighborhoods around Walnut Creek Country Club.
The additional enrollment at Legacy could also affect athletics by bumping the school into 6A competition, said Mindy Cook.
“It’s amazing because winning is contagious,” Cook said. “It’s in the classroom, in the fine arts, it’s in everything we do. The whole culture of our school could be tainted.”
She added that the additional students at Legacy would only be there temporarily as they’ll likely be rezoned to the sixth high school when it’s built.
There’s no timeline for the sixth high school but the district owns land across from Annette Perry Elementary School on South Main Street where the school could be built. The district would have to have a bond election, then it takes four years to design and build a high school, Wright said.
Parents also raised concerns about the possibility of using portable buildings at Legacy.
The meeting drew about 50 people, some of whom said they found out about the meeting the day of and were surprised more people didn’t attend.
Parents from Smith said they expect a larger crowd at the next community meeting March 26 at Legacy High School’s performing arts center.
More needs to be done to push this out on social media, parents said.
Paul Cash, executive director of facilities and operations, said everything is posted on the district’s website and all the meetings are open to the public, including the attendance zone committee meetings. The public is only allowed to speak at the community meetings.
“Our goal is to be transparent with this,” he said.
Wright added that the district has historically allowed students at the top of the grade configuration the option to remain at their original school. That would affect fourth-graders, sixth-graders, eighth-graders and juniors and seniors.
It would be up to the school board to institute that option for this rezoning, which goes into effect for all grade levels for the 2020-21 school year.