Middle school zones get approval: New plan eliminates need for portable buildings at schools

Published on Saturday, 21 December 2013 22:15 - Written by By Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The new middle school attendance zones for Tyler ISD reveal a situation that eliminates the need for portable buildings on all six campuses and creates a diverse student population at the Three Lakes school.

A federal judge signed off on TISD’s proposed attendance zones on Dec. 12, making official the changes that will go into effect in fall 2015.

At that time, TISD plans to open a new middle school on Three Lakes Parkway in southwest Tyler along with a new Boulter Middle School and Moore MST Magnet School.

All three projects are a part of the $160.5 million bond package that Tyler ISD voters approved in May 2013.

With the introduction of a new middle school on Three Lakes Parkway in southwest Tyler, boundary lines for every middle school in the district will be affected, although Dogan and Moore only slightly.

The middle school populations that will be most affected are Stewart, Hubbard and Hogg.

With the closure of Stewart as a middle school (it will be repurposed for other uses), the population living north of Texas Highway 31 and west of County Road 485 and 496 will be zoned to Boulter.

The Stewart population living south of Texas Highway 31 and west of Texas Highway 155 will be zoned to the Three Lakes campus.

The southern border of the Hogg attendance zone changes to Loop 323, and everyone who lives south of the loop and previously was zoned to Hogg will be zoned to the Three Lakes campus.

The Three Lakes attendance zone also will take students from the old Hubbard zone. People previously zoned to Hubbard who live south of West Grande Boulevard and west of West Mud Creek will attend the Three Lakes campus.

A small group of residents who live around County Road 496 in northern Tyler and previously were zoned to Moore Middle School will be split between Boulter and Dogan.

School district attorney John Hardy said the goals throughout the redrawing of boundary lines process were the safety of students in transportation, the racial balancing of the schools, a desire to relieve overcrowding at schools and accommodate the growth in the southwest part of the city.

The process involved discussions between principals, administrators, staff members, and district transportation and facilities officials.

The district received community input at workshops and board meetings, involved the demographer, attorneys and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hardy said.

Because TISD remains under a federal desegregation order, it has to submit any attendance zone changes to the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal judge overseeing the case for his approval.

Hardy said they tried to use major intersections, thoroughfares and natural dividers as boundaries whenever possible.

Ideally the racial makeup of each school would mirror that of the district, but that is not possible in some cases.

“What we have done and what we are really pleased with is the new school, Three Lakes, is going to be about a third, a third, a third,” Hardy said referring to the racial demographic of the campus. “It’s nice when you’ve got a mix of the kids that is more equal.”

Although the populations of the middle schools are expected to vary from more than 400 to about 900, Hardy said none of the buildings should have portables when they open the new schools in 2015.

Tonya McClelland, 40, a stay-at-home mother, has two elementary school students in TISD that will be zoned for Hubbard just as they were before the boundary line changes.

She said if the campus has smaller class sizes as a result of some of its population going to the new middle school, that’s a good thing. But as far as the portables, she said they never really bothered her in the first place.

“To me they’re not a detriment,” she said. “I mean they’re ugly, but I’m not concerned about ugly. I would kind of rather my kids walk through the mud and rain to get to class because it teaches them more character.”

That being said, Ms. McClelland said she did support the bond proposal for the benefit of the community as a whole and because she thinks the district needed new schools.

“I’ve seen what happens when you don’t grow,” she said.

TISD parent Elicia Eckert said she’s excited about the new schools and the changes coming to the district. Her children, who are in fourth-grade and younger, would have gone to Hubbard under the previous boundary lines. In 2015, they will be zoned to go to Three Lakes.

She said the opening of the new school will be great for Hubbard because it will make it less crowded.

The fact that TISD is building new middle schools to go along with the new elementary schools is great, she said.

“I don’t see any real winners or losers in this,” Ms. Eckert, 37, a full-time mom, said. “I think it’s great for all of the kids that will be going to middle school in Tyler.”

 The middle school boundary line changes will go into effect in 2015, when the district opens the new middle schools and repurposes Stewart Middle School.