Denton ISD tweaks zoning plan

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New proposal would keep small area in Paloma Creek bounds

Denton school officials say they plan to present the school board next week with another option for alleviating overcrowding at Paloma Creek Elementary School next school year.

Rod Reeves, the district’s facilities and planning coordinator, said that on Nov. 13 he will present an option that would keep about 30 current students zoned to the Paloma Creek Elementary attendance boundary for the 2013-14 year. Students affected by this second option live within a “notched” area with Navo Road bordering to the north and west, Salt Branch Road and Villa Paloma Boulevard to the east, and a clearing between West Rosson Road and Salt Branch Road to the south.

The second option is in addition to the district’s original proposal to rezone the southeast portions of both the Paloma Creek and Savannah elementary attendance boundaries to Providence Elementary School for the 2013-14 year. The original proposal would affect about 115 students who live in the Paloma Creek boundary; no students currently live in the southeast portion of the Savannah attendance boundary.

The original proposal calls for students living south of U.S. Highway 380, east of Navo Road and Villa Paloma Boulevard to the district’s southern boundary at Lewisville Lake and west of district’s east boundary near FM423, to be rezoned to Providence Elementary next school year.

Students entering fifth grade next year at Paloma Creek and their siblings enrolled at the school will have the option to remain there, provided they furnish their own transportation, district officials have said.

The second option was created after district officials heard residents’ concerns at meetings last month, Reeves said.

The original proposal was presented to the public Oct. 10 and 11 and to school board members Oct. 23.

At the Oct. 23 school board meeting, the board asked officials for a breakdown of the actual numbers of students in the “notched” area for the Nov. 13 meeting. Board President Mia Price said that would allow the board to “assess current enrollment and projected growth in that area.”

Reeves said the “notched” area is included in the original option because it’s adjacent to a future school site.

“We want to make sure we’re preparing for future growth … and we’re trying to balance populations between the campuses so we’re not here next year rezoning again,” he said.

The school board may consider action on the attendance zone change at the Nov. 13 meeting.

Board members asked for the additional information after a parent, Sabrina Vallecillo, requested the board consider redrawing the attendance boundary lines to go down Villa Paloma Boulevard and cut across Salt Branch Road and keep that notched area with about 30 students zoned to Paloma Creek Elementary.

She explained during a public forum portion of the board’s Oct. 23 meeting that under the original proposal in which Navo Road is a border, lines are drawn down the backside of fences. She asked the board members if they would consider allowing students who live in that area to remain at Paloma Creek. No new growth is projected for that area, she said.

“Those few children, they’ve already established roots,” Vallecillo said. “It would just be a shame for those students to feel even more secluded.

“The fact that that area has no room for growth … then it really doesn’t affect too many children, but the children it does affect, it’s really important to them,” she said.

The Denton district’s elementary schools are built with a functional capacity of 740 students. Paloma Creek Elementary is currently at that capacity, and without changes to elementary attendance boundaries, it is projected to be well over capacity next school year, Reeves said.

He said the original proposal allows the district to balance student populations over a longer period of time, whereas Paloma Creek Elementary is projected to be overcrowded a year sooner if the second option is approved.

Price said that because there’s no bonding capacity to build new schools, the district continues to balance student populations by modifying attendance boundaries.

Under current law, the maximum interest and sinking tax rate a district could ask taxpayers for to repay bonds that fund new school construction is 50 cents per $100 valuation. The school district’s current interest and sinking tax rate is set at 49 cents.

The district’s only other option is extending the timeframe for repaying debt, which would result in more money paid out in interest.

“That is so costly and not economically sound for taxpayer dollars,” Price said.

Price said she understands the plights of parents in redrawing elementary boundaries.

“Rezoning is difficult and we understand that, and truthfully I wish we didn’t have to do this,” she said. “I know it is very disheartening to have to move … children, and I truly wish this wasn’t the case.”

The board is currently in the process of preparing legislative priorities ahead of the next legislative session, which starts in January.

Price said the list of priorities, which the board intends to have completed by its next meeting, informs local elected officials about the district’s needs, what’s anticipated and how those elected officials can help. The priorities list is made up of about 10 points, many focusing on fiscal issues.

Speaking on behalf of his daughter, Octave Picot asked the school board Oct. 23 to consider keeping school attendance as is, not accepting any additional new students at Paloma Creek Elementary, instead having any new children who move into the Paloma Creek attendance boundary attend Providence Elementary. He urged the board to let students who have attended Paloma Creek Elementary for the last three years to continue doing so.

“We have built up a kinship with the school and also other families and also their classmates,” Picot said. “We have parents that have also invested our time over the last few years. If you do so, you will maintain the integrity of the Paloma Creek community for the current residents.”

He said he’s hoping for a win-win situation for everybody when the board makes its decision later this month. Picot said it meant a lot to him to express his concerns before the board.

“I know that they have to make their decisions and, based on the outcome, I’ll have to accept that decision, but at least I was able to voice my opinion,” he said after the meeting.

In a separate discussion, school officials told the board they plan to report that the district’s reserves went up last school year by a projected $13.5 million. Final figures will be released when the district’s fiscal audit is released later this month.

Superintendent Jamie Wilson said there’s been no discussion about using reserves to build school facilities.

Major maintenance items needing attention, such as bus and technology replacements, have been delayed, and the district will look to put any reserves toward those projects, he said.

“These items may have previously been categorized as bond items; however, in order to increase bond capacity, we will assign fund balance accordingly,” Wilson wrote in an e-mail.

It’s also expected that some of the reserves money will be assigned on a one-time basis to other district programs.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is btabor@dentonrc.com.


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