San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 16th, 2008
Letter: Let our kids attend their neighborhood school

Editor:

The San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District has been working for months on a plan to re-align the Elementary School Attendance Zones. With a 6th campus coming next year (a renovated Goodnight Jr. High) it was necessary to move some lines.I appreciate the difficulty of the task.

I understand the notion that “not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome”, but as this proposed plan stands, neighborhoods are being split and kids will be forced to travel past one school to get to another in the name of socio-economic equity. I respectfully disagree with several aspects of the plan itself and take exception to the planning process as a whole.

The process by which the proposed plan came to be was flawed from the start. There has been no public input to the plan. No attempt was made to hear the wishes and priorities of the parents of the children who will be most affected. I only became aware of the Attendance Zone Committee’s (AZC) charge on September 3rd when I read a district press release.

I began to ask questions and was immediately struck by the “secretiveness” of The Plan. District staff was not inclined to talk openly about the AZC. In fact, all district employees I spoke to refused to comment about it. There was no information posted on the District’s website. I was directed finally to district’s Public Information Officer and requested to see the draft plan, minutes of the AZC meetings, and other documents. The district complied with some of my requests, but would not release the latest draft of the Plan.

The public was not invited (allowed) to attend to the AZC meetings. I asked several times to audit these meetings and my request was denied. I’m not sure this is legal or not, but I do know it’s not right.

We’ve heard from the Administration that the AZC was made up of a diverse cross-section on the community and was representative of our community as a whole.

I’m in complete disagreement with this statement, after seeing the roster of members. And looking at the attendance records of the AZC, I find the meetings were not well attended. Of 39 members, 14 were district employees, most of whom attended every meeting. Of the 25 members who don’t work for the District, only 7 attended every meeting. 11 members attended only one or two of the meetings, and 2 members never attended a meeting at all. Only one representative from each elementary campus was named to the committee, and no one from my neighborhood (Westover) was represented.

So I violently disagree with the premise that the AZC was representative of the community.

The identified priorities of the AZC were “balanced student counts, balanced special populations, balanced socio-economic groups, close proximity of campuses to neighborhoods, preserving neighborhood integrity, safest walking and bus routes, minimal travel time and distance, and the consideration on future growth.”

The District as a whole is presently 65% economically disadvantaged. Yes, Crockett has the least amount of kids on the Federal Free Lunch Program (48%). But Bowie, with the highest number of economically disadvantaged kids at 79%, is currently the only elementary to earn Exemplary status from the TEA!

So what is this about- numbers and statistics or kids?

Logical bus routes? How is it logical to bus kids past one elementary school to another?

I live exactly .05 miles from Crockett. Hernandez is located 1.8 miles away. As we all know, there is only one way in and out of Hernandez and it’s by way of the most congested road in our town. And bussing kids from Travis to Crockett is not logical.

Preserving neighborhood integrity? This concept has been dismissed outright by the AZC.

Consideration of future growth? The Wonder World Drive Extension was never considered in the AZC planning process. This 35 million dollar road project is slated for completion in 18 months. Neighborhoods (Country Estates, The Settlement) out Ranch Road 12 are still in the Crockett attendance zone, while Westover (I can see Crockett from my house…) is not. These kids can not walk to school no matter which campus they attend, and can more easily access the Hernandez campus with the completion of Wonder World Drive Extension than they can Crockett.

Again, there has been no public input to this process and the criteria were not “parent-driven”.

There has been a minimal effort by the District to inform impacted parents of the changes. I am sure many will find out about the changes when they receive their bus schedules in the mail next summer.

Every single elementary school campus is brand new and equitable.

Neighborhoods are being dismantled. Transportation costs will increase, as will road congestion and pollution. It’s easy to fix.

I am asking our School Board to consider amending the map to allow San Marcos kids to attend their neighborhood school.

Chris North
San Marcos

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