Pflugerville ISD narrows possible closure list down to this elementary school

The Pflugerville Independent School District has narrowed down its proposed school closures to a single elementary campus.
The Pflugerville Independent School District has narrowed down its proposed school closures to a single elementary campus.

The Pflugerville school district on Monday whittled its options for realigning campus boundaries to two plans, one of which would close Dessau Elementary School.

A district panel came up with two new plans: elementary plan 9, which would close Dessau, and high school plan 3, which would close no campuses but transfer some students from overcrowded Weiss High School.

Sandy Baker, the district's chief of staff, said the Boundary Adjustment Committee recommended the two new plans with the guidance of Superintendent Doug Killian.

Killian in December announced the district would begin considering the closure of several elementary campuses and shifting attendance boundaries at all grade levels. District officials blamed declining attendance rates and a lack of money from the state for its projected $12 million to $14 million budget deficit.

In the original plan, the elementary schools being considered for closure were:

  • Parmer Lane

  • River Oaks

  • Dessau

  • Spring Hill

  • Brook Hollow

  • Pflugerville

During a Jan. 19 meeting, the list of schools up for possible closure were narrowed to Dessau, River Oaks and Parmer Lane elementaries.

In an email sent to parents Friday. Killian said he asked the committee to study repurposing Dessau since the school has not been a high-achieving campus. He said nearby schools have the capacity to take students from Dessau.

Dessau "has struggled academically for the past few years," he said in the email. "While the district has provided additional funding, resources, and support to the campus, we struggle to make adequate progress. Again, this isn't something any of us want to do; however, I must consider all options to do what is in the best interest of our staff, students, and district, short-term and long-term."

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If Dessau Elementary were to close, students would be transferred to Delco, Pflugerville and Wieland elementaries. Baker said 213 students would go to Delco, 153 to Wieland and 202 to Pflugerville. To accommodate the influx, 129 students from Delco would be sent to Copperfield Elementary. Baker said none of the campuses would go over capacity within the next five years, except for Pflugerville Elementary.

If the plan is approved, the district would expect to see only five campuses — Carpenter, Hidden Lake, Mott, Pflugerville and Rowe Lane elementaries — exceeding their capacity within the next seven years, Baker said.

Baker said the plan would at some point require the district to add portable buildings on campuses, consider rezoning or ask for a bond to build another elementary school east of Texas 130.

Addressing parents' concerns about the effects on special education and bilingual students, Baker said 51 students who receive special education at Dessau would be moved to the schools that provide the programs they need. She said multilingual students would be zoned to schools providing the language they need.

More:Pflugerville district narrows list of possible school closure plans. Here's what we know

If approved, the plan also would require the district to rearrange several bus routes. Baker said the changes would come at no additional cost to the district.

Approximately 78 staff members would be affected if Dessau is repurposed. Baker said they would have the opportunity to pick a job within the district amid several open positions.

Baker said the closing of Dessau would not save the district money as it is expected to open Hidden Lake Elementary next fall. The opening of Hidden Lake will cost the district approximately $3 million Killian said.

"It is trading one for the other," Baker said.

What is high school plan 3?

High school plan 3 would rezone Weiss students to Connally High and Pflugerville High to keep it from going over capacity. Baker said the plan would also keep high schools in the 5A UIL category. With the new plan, none of the high schools go over capacity within the next five years.

Baker said the schools being designated as 5A could save money and host in-district events for both athletic and fine arts. She did not specify how much money would be saved.

Possible approval of the attendance boundary adjustments is expected Feb. 23.

Trustees Brian Allen and Tony Harrison said they were not sure if timeframe was enough for them to have all the information to make a decision.

The board could decide to reject both plans. If the district does not close any schools, it will have to make budget cuts elsewhere, Killian has said.

More:Parents voice concerns over possible school closures in Pflugerville

'Dessau Elementary is more than a campus'

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Dessau Elementary staff urged the board to not close the school.

Principal Teyan Allen said she did not appreciate the way Killian spoke about the school in his email to parents and staff. She said the campus is proud, committed and passionate.

"It is important for the board to know that Dessau Elementary is more than a campus that has struggled academically," she said. "It is composed of excellent educators and support staff who give more than imaginable. It is filled with capable, competent and talented students."

Emily Miranda, a fifth-grade teacher at Dessau, was in tears as she told the board if they close the school, they are taking away the culture, sense of belonging and the pride students feel about their campus.

Elizabeth Martinez a third-grade teacher at the campus, said while she found the superintendent's email about the campus possibly closing to be distasteful, she knows the board has a tough choice to make.

"In your shoes is where I would never want to be," she said. "To be making big decisions that affect hundreds of lives. However, I also understand that sometimes hard decisions need to be made."

Courtney Berger, a third-grade teacher at Dessau, said she understood the hard decision the board needed to make, but she asked them to be careful about how the school would be viewed.

"Do not let our campus be reduced to a few sentences about a lack of academic success or viewed as a sore spot in PFISD," she said.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Pflugerville ISD narrows possible school closure list to one school