Local ISD Set To Vote on Elementary Closures

Richardson ISD
Richardson ISD Administration Building | Image by Richardson ISD

Richardson ISD trustees are expected to vote Thursday on a restructuring plan that would close several district campuses in an effort to address a massive budget deficit.

The district is currently staring at a $28 million deficit for the 2024-25 school year, with few options to increase funding. The four campuses being discussed for closure are Greenwood Hills, Springridge, Spring Valley, and Thurgood Marshall elementaries. Students will be shifted to other local campuses under the Project RightSize plan, as reported by The Dallas Express.

All four schools are at just 60% capacity and have seen declining student enrollment since the pandemic. With state funding of public schools tied to enrollment, the declining number of students in the district has only made budgeting issues more challenging. The four schools are all older buildings in need of upgrades to stay current.

Closure of the schools would reduce costs to the district by approximately $10.8 million. It would also result in a savings of $300,000 because of a reduction in bus routes. One-time funds of $10 million would be available to help close the gap to a more manageable number.

The plan would also see the elimination of non-contiguous campus boundaries, allowing the district to better spread students evenly among the remaining campuses.

Budgeting shortfalls and declining enrollment are plaguing many districts in Texas. The most recent estimate shows a general decline in the number of students enrolled for at least the coming decade.

In February 2023, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath informed the State Senate that declining numbers of enrollees would have a ripple effect over the next ten years, as reported by Spectrum News. He explained that after years of growth, the Great Recession led to fewer children being born, and the COVID-19 pandemic also significantly impacted ISDs.

“But the best projections that we have is that enrollment is going to actually begin to trend negative on a net basis for the next decade in Texas because of this shift in birth rates,” Morath said. “And this is not well understood. This is a statewide phenomenon. It’s not specific to any region or geography.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has been pushing school choice as a way to broaden opportunities for parents and students. The most recent bill that failed to pass through Congress would have significantly boosted per-pupil funding for all school districts. The bill would also have provided a wage increase for teachers. Opponents of the measure feared the change would ultimately result in the siphoning off of students from traditional schools and create more budgeting problems, particularly for rural campuses, as reported by The Dallas Express.

“I will continue advancing school choice in the Texas Legislature and at the ballot box, and will maintain the fight for parent empowerment until all parents can choose the best education path for their child,” Abbott said in a statement to the American-Statesman. “I am in it to win it.”

Abbott endorsed several candidates for office who represent a pro-school choice viewpoint and who were running against incumbents who voted against the legislation. The May runoff and November primary could see school choice gain enough support to pass legislation next year.

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