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Local District Considering Four School Closures

Plano Independent School District Center | Image by Plano Independent School District
Plano Independent School District Center | Image by Plano Independent School District

Grappling with declining student enrollment, the Plano Independent School District is considering shuttering four campuses in 2025.

The Long Range Facility Planning Advisory Committee recommended to the Plano ISD school board Tuesday evening that Davis Elementary, Forman Elementary, Armstrong Middle School, and Carpenter Middle School be closed. While Foreman and Armstrong are located in the east cluster of the PISD attendance zone, Davis and Carpenter are found in the central cluster. Schools in the west cluster were not included in the recommendation due to all grades seeing an occupancy rate of 80% or above and unpredictable new student growth.

The Long Range Facility Planning Advisory Committee, formed last May to develop a 10-year road map for the district, has been examining facilities and enrollments for its report, which it gave during the May 21 school board meeting. Superintendent Dr. Theresa Williams referred to the committee’s process as meticulously data-driven.

Carpenter is one example of a school that has experienced significant declines in student enrollment. Despite having a capacity for about 1,400 students, it sees only around 500. Carpenter was built in 1978 and would require $110 million to replace. The presentation noted that sparing the district this expenditure would also allow an annual operating savings of $2.1 million.

Overall, according to the presentation, closing the four campuses could result in capital savings of $20.1 million and cost avoidance of $340 million.

Many North Texas public school districts are facing potential campus closures due to shrinking student bodies, stagnant state support, and rising security costs, as covered extensively by The Dallas Express. While Plano ISD officials point to demographic shifts and high housing costs in certain parts of its attendance zones as contributing factors, some districts, such as Dallas ISD, have been losing students to competitors promising stronger academics.

The latest available Texas Education Agency accountability report shows only 41% of Dallas ISD students hit the at-grade-level mark on the STAAR exam in 2021-2022. That same year, nearly 20% of its graduating class failed to obtain a diploma within four years.

In comparison, Plano ISD had 62% of its students obtaining grade level on the 2021-2022 STAAR exam, besting both Dallas ISD and the state average of 48%. Its on-time graduation that term was 95.1%.

School closures can elicit emotions, even discord, in the community. While the Plano ISD board ponders whether to follow the committee’s recommendation to close the four campuses, some, like Zach Carson, whose son attends sixth grade at Carpenter, brace themselves for the possible change. Yet, as he told NBC 5 DFW, Carson understands why such a move is being considered.

“The downside is Plano has allowed the housing market to price out young families, so now the only people who can afford to live here are older people who don’t have kids that go to school,” he said.

Plano ISD board members will likely vote on the school closures in June.

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