FRISCO, Texas – A Texas school district is considering shelving plans for four new schools after board members realized they don’t have the money to operate them.
Workers are still constructing four schools in the Frisco Independent School District – Memorial High School, Lawler Middle School, and Talley and Lisacano elementary schools – but district staffers are expected to recommend that the school board not use them, because they would cost more to operate than the district can afford, the Dallas News reports.
The district is facing a $30 million budget deficit due to voters in august rejecting a tax hike, and the elimination of a state fund next school year. Leaving the four schools closed would save $15 million, superintendent Jeremy Lyon told the news site.
It also “means our existing schools become overcrowded, which puts pressure on the whole system,” he said.
According to NBC DFW:
In August, 58 percent of voters rejected a property tax rate increase, which would have generated $30.6 million to cover the end of a fund called Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction. …
According to Frisco ISD, it costs $16-$18 million to open, staff two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. If the openings are delayed, rezoning may involve a combination of capping enrollments and possible adjustments to existing zones to balance enrollment to assist in delaying the need for future new schools, the district said.
“It’s expensive to open and staff new schools,” Frisco ISD finance director Todd Fouche told CBS DFW.
Currently, four of 40 elementary schools, two of 16 middle schools, and one of four high schools exceed capacity, the Dallas News reports.
The school’s board of trustees called a meeting for today to look at enrollment issues and cost savings from keeping the new schools closed next year, and could vote to keep them closed and shift district boundaries to prevent extreme overcrowding.
The district is expecting around 2,500 new students next year, Lyons said.
“When you don’t open that school, then you have overcrowding at other facilities and you have increased class sizes at other facilities,” he told NBC DFW. “You have to weigh that with the savings. At the end of the day, the tough part is, we have to balance the budget.”
“We have a history of accommodating that level of overcrowding in the past. Is it desirable? No. But does it save enormous amounts of money without directly impacting student programs and opportunities? Yes,” he said.
Regardless, some parents who voted in favor of the 13-cent property tax to plug the loss in state funding aren’t very fond of the plan to put the news schools on hold.
“As a mom, I’m thinking overcrowding. I’m thinking our school district was built on the foundation of the small school model,” said Cindy Badon, whose son attends Wakeland High School.
“What happens when you put too many students in one school? How does it affect their education? How does it affect student to teacher ratios? If we’re giving teachers too much of a work load, that’s going to affect the quality of our district and the quality of the teachers we attract to our district,” she continued. “We voted to build schools and then we voted against the funding of those schools.”