Schools make room for unexpected numbers

In News by Reporter News

Officials at Pearland ISD continue to accommodate new students, opting this month to add portable buildings as a short-term answer.

The school board last week approved the purchase of six portable buildings at a cost of just under $400,000. Four of the buildings will be placed at fast-growing Dawson High School. Each of the modular buildings contains two classrooms.

“We are concerned about rapid enrollment growth at Dawson,” Superintendent John Kelly said. “The short-term solution is these portable buildings. The long-term solution is what you’ve directed me to do, which is to put together longer term plans in terms of a possible bond election.”

Two buildings will be purchased for Cockrell Elementary.

“Cockrell also is not a surprise to us, but it continues to grow,” Kelly said.

Based on the numbers, the administration projects that no rezoning is necessary prior to the 2015-16 school year.

“We are saying for the coming year, put two portables there, which is four classrooms, but for the following year, which is 2017, we may be recommending spot rezoning from Cockrell to other schools,” Kelly said. “This is a temporary move, but I always say about portables: You really don’t go wrong with portables, because you’re going to need them somewhere.”

Any re-zoning decisions await analysis and recommendations by the demographer, the facilities committee and district administration.

A memo to Kelly from staff indicates Dawson High has increased by 149 students this school year, 29 percent of the total increase for the district. Should the trend continue, Dawson will increase its enrollment by 196 for the 2015-16 school year. This puts Dawson at 2,460 students, or 323 more than projected by the district’s demographer, representing a growth rate of 7 or 8 percent compared to the rest of the district’s 1 to 2 percent per year rate.

Meanwhile, Cockrell Elementary is projected to enroll 871 students next year, due to new subdivisions being built in its attendance zone.

Trustee Andrew Solomon had concerns on the portables purchase.

“Rezoning of any sort sucks and I get that, but if you look at the numbers, it seems like it’s almost inevitable,” Solomon said. “We don’t want to spot rezone right now. We’re going to put that off. It almost seems like we’re spending money on something we could accomplish through spot rezoning. We’re going to have to do it.”

Kelly said he understood the argument. Portables will be needed one way or the other, he said. In addition, the spot rezoning is a “chain reaction” involving four elementary schools.

“We’d like to see the whites of their eyes in the fall before we jump too far ahead of it,” he said.

There are competing theories for what is going on at Dawson, Kelly said.

“One theory is that a lot more people are moving in on the west side in sort of a fill-in type capacity, not so much a major development,” he said. “The other theory is the belief that there may be as many as 150 students who are not really living in our zone, but pretending to live there and that’s driven up the numbers. That would not be discovered by the demographer.

“We tried to get to the bottom of that if you remember about two years ago, and really didn’t get anywhere because people can find legal and other ways around those things,” he said. “We were not able to prove they didn’t live where they were.”

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