A reprieve for some but not all on new schools
Clear Creek's school board voted Monday night to approve the much-debated boundary maps that will fill the district's new high school next fall by pulling students from Clear Lake and Clear Creek high schools, but to slow down on moving students out of Clear Springs and Clear Brook high schools.
The board also decided against loosening district policies on school transfers, which are granted on a case by case basis only for "hardship difficulties with child care or transportation" and a handful of other reasons. That means the new school boundaries will apply next fall to virtually all incoming freshmen and sophomores who would have attended Clear Lake and Clear Creek high schools under current boundaries; only incoming freshmen who'd expected to attend Clear Springs; and no students at Clear Brook until the 2011-2012 school year.
The changes coming to intermediate school boundaries apply to all students, but incoming 8th graders can apply for waivers to stay at their old schools as long as they can come up with their own transportation.
In the contentious case of Clear Springs High School, the board voted 4-3 to let all students who currently attend Springs stay at Springs even if they live across the freeway in the neighborhoods feeding Parr Elementary. The School Boundary Advisory Committee had recommended sending kids in those neighborhoods to Clear Creek High School, and that will still happen, but only to future students. The advisory committee had asked the school board to give special consideration to current Springs students living in the Parr neighborhoods, because these families were switched from Creek to Springs just three years ago when Springs first opened.
Voting with board members Ken Baliker, Winifred Weber and Charles Pond to grant current Springs students a reprieve, Dee Scott observed that there was no need to pull students from Springs just yet, since growth on League City's west side isn't expected to cause crowding at Springs for a few more years. Unlike students who are being pulled away from Clear Lake High School to fill Clear Falls High School when it opens in the fall, Springs students didn't have an inkling that the advisory committee would redraw their boundaries. Having some time to get used to the idea will alleviate "a little heartburn," she said.
But Bob Davee, who voted with board members Stuart Stromeyer and Ann Hammond against the delay, argued that exceptions shouldn't be made for a few when so many students are affected across the district. He pointed out that some of the families living in Taylor Lake Village will struggle with having one kid at Lake and one across the bridge at Falls next year. There are also students who live within walking distance of Clear Creek who will have to board buses next year to attend Falls.
Making an exception for Springs, Davee said, will also have a ripple effect. The board's decision to tinker with the timeline means Clear Creek High School stands to lose 246 incoming sophomores it would have had without the boundary changes, and Stromeyer wondered if that could push Creek out of 5A and into 4A territory when it comes to sports competitions.
Nonetheless, Springs parents -- who've been the most vocal opponents of the proposed boundary changes -- were visibly relieved the vote went their way. Diona Schultz, one of the parents who asked the board Monday night to give Springs students a break, said afterward that she teared up when the board voted.
"We just cared about the ouch for the kids," she said.
In the case of Clear Brook High School, the board voted 6-1 to wait and apply the school's new boundaries to the freshmen class of 2011-2012. The advisory committee had recommended sending Brook students living in the Whitcomb Elementary zone over to Clear Lake High School where the rest of the Whitcomb kids end up. The problem: Lake will still be crowded for a couple more years because of grandfathered upperclassmen.
Voting for the delay, Stromeyer said the intent of drawing new school boundaries wasn't just to fill Clear Falls but also to relieve crowding at Lake, so adding to the crowding simply didn't make sense.
But casting the lone vote against a delay, Davees said the school board should have avoided creating exceptions for anyone.
"We've created an inequity, it seems to me," he said.
As for the high school opening next fall in League City's Education Village, the school board agreed to all the advisory committee's recommendations to populate Clear Falls with the portion of students from League City Intermediate who live in the Hyde Elementary zone in addition to all the students from Seabrook Intermediate and Bayside Intermediate. Bayside is the school that's opening next door to Falls in the Education Village next year, and it will be fed by Stewart and Mossman elementary schools.
Even though the school board was divided on when to implement the new school boundaries, all agreed the new boundaries were needed to prevent overcrowding at Lake now and overcrowding at other schools down the road. Within four years, each of the high schools should have around 2,500 students under the district's new plan.
"Within a year or two, everyone's going to be happy where they are," Pond predicted.
Stromeyer apologized for brushing off complaints about the boundary changes at the school board's last meeting, when he said he was "sick and tired" of hearing from families who didn't want siblings split between schools or athletes torn away from their teams.
"I've come to realize some of my comments were insensitive and inappropriate," he said.
Click here to see the approved changes to school boundaries.
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